February 2023: News from the Metro Mayor Dan Norris

A new solution to our bus crisis

LAST year I held scores of mayor events across the West of England to meet thousands of local people face-to-face to discuss buses.

For me, this was all about listening. It quickly became clear the severe bus driver shortage nationally is impacting hard locally.

For the individuals and communities hit by route changes or cuts, this is a very big deal.

The old ways don’t work. It needs new and innovative solutions as soon as possible.

I am proud to announce that a fleet of green minibuses called WEST link will form a new ‘on-demand’ service within the West of England, starting this summer.

Passengers in designated zones will be able hail a ‘WEST link’ minibus by using an app on your smartphone, visiting a website or by phoning up.

Unlike traditional buses, WEST link will be unrestricted by a timetable. Instead, clever tech will use algorithms to link up several people’s needs, combining them into one trip as efficiently as possible.

The 7am to 7pm Monday-Saturday service will cover much of North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire and parts of Bristol including Windmill Hill, Knowle, Brislington and St Anne’s. Within this overall area, there will be local zones. Passengers will be able to use a WEST link minibus in their local zone to get to key transport corridors to then pick up another bus or train.  

Vitally, using more minibuses will help address the acute bus driver shortage.

How? Well, it’s easier and quicker to train to drive a smaller vehicle and for most people, it is far less daunting!  

It also allows drivers already qualified to get behind the wheel of large double-deckers to focus on the busy routes. On demand minibuses also better meet the needs of our more remote or isolated communities.

You have been telling me the status quo hasn’t been working and that unreliable buses cannot be tolerated.

You have said things must improve to help you get to where you need to travel and to meet our vitally important and ambitious 2030 Net Zero targets.

I agree – so there will be changes.

Change is hard: it’s disruptive and takes time.  

I, my staff, and the bus companies, will have to learn lessons as we work hard to put things right. Please play your part by trying WEST link, so we can grab this positive opportunity to shape our transport future for the better.