Passenger upheaval in Bristol

21 November 2018

Bristol as a dynamic and growing city has had a tough few weeks when it comes to transport. And so have its residents when trying to move around the city.

The mainline railway between Bristol Parkway and Bristol Temple Meads has been shut for major upgrade works, the replacement bus services run by the main operator First have been subject to excoriating headlines around poor performance and driver shortages, with congestion presenting an additional challenge to anyone trying to travel around the city.

Bus passengers, in particular, took to social media to voice frustration and concerns about the performance of buses, with delays, overcrowding and services stuck in what seems never ending congestion.

Running buses is a complex task in a city that has some challenging highway constraints, especially during periods of significant investment such as at Temple Circus. The operator is holding their hands up, with their Managing Director, James Freeman, even heading out to drive a bus himself to get a greater understanding of the challenges he and his staff are facing.

Despite this, Bristol is one of the few places in the UK actually bucking the trend in terms of bus patronage, with healthy rising numbers – indeed one facet of the recent problem was due to unexpected high demand for services from students which presented issues to First at the start of term.

The local authority, Bristol City Council has a good understanding of the issues in play and has just consulted on a new Transport Plan for the city that has some great ambition and some potential devils in the detail. Tackling congestion will be key to helping public transport become the mode of choice alongside the continued growth in walking and cycling.

Good timing or not, the city was also host to a recent visit from the Transport Select Committee linked to its inquiry that’s investigating the health of the bus market. In support of this Transport Focus shared the most recent results for Bristol from the Bus Passenger Survey – to make sure the experience of local passengers was clearly heard by MPs. It seems the message from this session was that working together is the answer, so it will be interesting to see whether passengers agree.

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