‘Beyond stupid’: bus link chopped in border row 

A transport campaigner says two councils need their heads banging together – after a row over funding means some buses will no longer cross borders from North Bristol into South Gloucestershire.

Dave Redgewell says the consequences are “a bitter blow for the economy of North Bristol” –  and a huge problem for residents of Westbury on Trym and Henleaze – cutting them off from Bristol Parkway station and employment centres in Filton and Abbeywood.

Bus services across the region, which are co-ordinated by the West of England Combined Authority (Weca), have been hard hit by falling passenger numbers since Covid, severe driver shortages and increased costs.  Hard-pressed councils have reduced their subsidies for unprofitable routes, which has led Weca, led by Metro Mayor Dan Norris, to announce that dozens of services will be axed completely from April 1.

Now it’s emerged that a row between Bristol City and South Gloucestershire councils means two services between the areas will be curtailed.

The Stagecoach number 10 and 11 services both currently travel through Westbury-on Trym, connecting Avonmouth, Shirehampton and Coombe Dingle to locations including Southmead Hospital, UWE Bristol, Abbeywood, Filton, Aztec West, and Parkway.

Bristol City Council has agreed to subsidise the buses within the city boundaries, but no further.  South Gloucestershire has voted not to fund the bus routes.

So from the beginning of April  both services will stop at Southmead Hospital, and turn back.

Dave Redgewell said: “These are very important social economic bus services which are not commercially viable, but require subsidy from the West of England Combined Authority, through funding by the local councils.

“I thought Bristol would do something sensible instead of only running the buses to Southmead, I thought they would at least extend them to Parkway. It’s pretty devastating really.”

City councillor for Westbury on Trym and Henleaze Geoff Gollop said this showed that Weca was “dysfunctional” – and the result would be “big problems” for passengers.

“The Metro Mayor and the local authority leaders should have been discussing this potential crisis for months and attempting to find a solution. Instead, these devastating proposals are being put forward by the Metro Mayor.”

He appealed to residents: “If this affects you by cutting off your access to work or family, please make contact as we need examples to share with council leaders who seem unaware of the seriousness of the situation.

“It is beyond stupid, that at a time when the council is rightly wanting to reduce car usage and pollution, that Weca removes support for these critical services, forcing passengers to consider car travel.”

Metro Mayor Mr Norris told the Voice: “Bus funding is a complicated jigsaw. Unfortunately local councils decided to reduce spending on council-subsidised buses via the transport levy. That’s why these services have been cut. It is a simple equation – less cash means fewer buses. I note some councils have now decided to extend some buses until just after local elections in May.”

A spokesman for South Gloucestershire Council told the Voice the authority had increased its funding for buses through Weca, but contract prices had more than doubled.

: “Given the critical nature of these supported bus services, the council has been working alongside Weca to mitigate the impacts of service reductions. South Gloucestershire Council have also provided Weca with an additional £435,000 over the last two years to retain these vital services,” they said.

 “South Gloucestershire Council proposed an amendment to the Weca budget last month to divert £800,000 in their spending to support more local bus routes and we look forward to the outcome of their urgent review into how this money can be spent to ensure that local people can continue to rely on local bus services to help them get to work, hospital appointments and to travel around the area.”

Leader of South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats Claire Young told the Voice “conflicting information” about the service funding was unsettling for passengers.

She said: “Local bus users aren’t interested in arguments about who funds the services, they just want those services to run – and not only until the elections are out of the way in May. “