First to cut ‘lifeline’ hospital bus service - Outraged Conservative councillors express fears for vulnerable bus users
First Bus has given notice of its intention to cut the only bus service linking parts of South Gloucestershire with Frenchay and Southmead hospitals, despite passenger numbers almost doubling in the short time the service has been running.
The bus company currently has a contract with South Gloucestershire Council for the 18 service which runs from Emersons Green to Southmead Hospital via Downend, Frenchay Hospital, UWE’s Frenchay campus, Parkway station and Little Stoke.
The contract was only awarded in September last year after the 517/8 service was discontinued under the Bristol City Council retendering exercise.
First Bus have indicated that, although after amending the timetable a number of times and passenger numbers rising from 8,000 to 15,000 per month, the revenue they receive is not enough and so they have now given the council 3 months notice to terminate the contract.
The council’s Integrated Transport Unit (ITU) is currently investigating a potential alternative service to be put in place before the existing contract notice period ends in September.
Campaigners now have concerns about how patients will be able to get from Emersons Green to Southmead hospital, especially once the previous Labour government’s downgrading of nearby Frenchay hospital has taken effect.
Conservative councillors for Emersons Green, Colin Hunt, Dave Kearns and James Hunt, said:
“We are outraged about First’s actions because they are cutting the only direct service that links our area with both Frenchay and Southmead hospitals less than a year after being awarded the contract.
This service has only been around for 9 months and was introduced after a period of much uncertainty – now these same passengers face yet more uncertainty.
First’s decision makes absolutely no sense because in the 9 short months that the 18 service has been running, passenger numbers have almost doubled from 8,000 to 15,000 per month.
A bus service really doesn’t get any more lifeline than this and so we are pleased that council officers are investigating what alternatives can be put in place to ensure that bus passengers aren’t inconvenienced by First’s bus cut.”
“The previous Labour government’s shameful decision to downgrade Frenchay hospital – backed by local Labour councillors – makes it even more important for there to be a direct bus link from Emersons Green to Southmead hospital for patients travelling by public transport.”