A key bus route to the Royal United Hospital looks like it will be saved if council leaders fork out £76,000.
Transport chiefs said the loss of the 42 service would have created a significant gap in the city’s bus network after First Bus pulled out.
The service carries tens of thousands of passengers from the Odd Down park and ride to the RUH each year, and the timetable will change to fit better with shift patterns for its staff – but the NHS trust said it was unable to contribute.
Councillor Neil Butters, cabinet member for transport services at Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “Up to 2016 we had a joint funding arrangement with the RUH which supported the number 42 service for many years and it is disappointing that the hospital has not been able to reinstate this agreement.
“Two bus operators have tried to run the service on a commercial basis but without success.
“This means the service will currently run until November 9 and then we hope to be able to award a new contract until August 2020 on a timetable that has been amended at the request of the RUH to better fit with staff shift patterns.”
The 42 park and ride carries nearly 160,000 passengers a year, mainly RUH staff, patients and visitors.
The half-hourly service launched in 2003 after a successful bid to the Government’s “urban bus challenge”.
For the past three years it has been run on a commercial basis, initially by Wessex Bus and then by First Bus.
The latter withdrew as of August 31 but is set to be paid £76,293 to offer the service with a revised timetable.
Cllr Joanna Wright, who shares the cabinet portfolio for transport services with Cllr Butters, is due to sign off the decision this week.
The report with the decision notice says: “Loss of this service would create a significant gap in the local bus network, so discussions were held between the council and the RUH with a view to agreeing a joint funding package.
“However, the RUH has confirmed recently that it is unable to contribute towards the financial support for service 42.”
Brian Johnson, the director of estates and facilities at the RUH Trust, said: “The trust’s sustainability team is working closely with B&NES Council to coordinate RUH and Bath city sustainable travel plans, including discussions on bus services.
“Public transport remains the responsibility of B&NES Council.
“The 42 bus links from south to north of the city and is not a dedicated service to the RUH for our visitors or staff.
“B&NES Council has made arrangements to maintain current services until November 9, pending a decision on awarding a new contract.
“The trust has confirmed that, in the current financial climate, it is unable to make any contribution towards support for service 42 and does not support any other public transport services.”
The 42 service could be incorporated into the contract for the park and ride when it gets re-tendered next year.
B&NES Council has also stepped in to fund part of the 228 service after Faresaver withdrew.
The bus carries some 15 pupils a day from the city centre to Ralph Allen School and would have hit the network of sustainable transport options when Bath’s clean air zone is about to be introduced.
Faresaver said it would be willing to operate the service until the end of the school year for a subsidy of £100 a day. Officers said the £19,000 total is better value for money than the council could get if it put the contract out to tender.
They recommended making the payment until the end of the school year, to give the West of England Combined Authority time to draw up its long-awaited bus strategy, which is expected in 2020/21.
Weca paid B&NES Council £400,000 last year to help it maintain as much of the bus network as possible in the meantime.
Numerous contracts were put out to tender and across the board costs are up an average of 28 per cent.
Firms put this down to higher insurance costs, the need to offer higher wages to attract staff to the area, and the requirement to upgrade their fleets to comply with Bath’s clean air zone.
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter