First Bus shake-up affects services across Bath
Bus services across Bath are being overhauled after a squeeze in council support.
Timetable changes will come into force on Sunday March 24 which will affect First’s existing 1, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 22, 41, 178, 179, 338, 339 and X39 services.
The routes of some services are being changed as the operator takes over some currently funded by Bath and North East Somerset Council.
First regional network manager Simon Ford issued a use it or lose it plea over the services now emerging from the shake-up.
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“The changes in Bath are designed to improve the local bus service and make more efficient use of the resources that we, and the council - in terms of its funding for socially necessary journeys - has available. There are some fairly big alterations being made but in almost every case where a particular route is being amended, or withdrawn, there are alternatives in place, meaning that people will still have access to bus services. In planning these changes we have worked closely with the local authority, to find what we consider to be innovative ways to retain supported bus journeys even where the funding for them has been squeezed.
“Where the retention of supported journeys has not been possible we have, where possible, taken some over commercially to help retain them, while also saving the local authority money. All in all this is good news for bus users, but customers are encouraged to use the services that are being provided, as those operating commercially will only be sustainable in the long term if they are actually used.”
He said changes to the 1 service would mean that there was for the first time a direct route between Combe Down and the Royal United Hospital.
The company is commercially taking over the bulk of the daytime services on the 6/7 route to Larkhall and Fairfield Park, where the council had been subsidising the timetable. A knock-on effect will be that evening services become more frequent, but Sunday and Bank Holiday ones are less frequent.
Timetables will be made available online from next Friday, March 15, and in hard copy format from next Saturday.
For more information about the changes, and to view new and existing timetables, log onto www.firstgroup.com/bath.
This is how the firm has described the changes in detail:
Service 1 (Combe Down – Weston): Both the route and the timetable of this service are being overhauled, with quite significant changes being made to both. Specifically from the 24 March buses will operate between Combe Down and Weston instead of Combe Down and Ensleigh as at present. Furthermore in travelling between the City Centre and Weston Service 1 buses will use the route presently used by Service 17. The latter will be withdrawn from the same date that the changes to Service 1 are implemented.
To accommodate the changes, and ensure all areas retain a bus service, a new Service 2 is also being created to provide journeys between Kingsway and Ensleigh via the City Centre (see details below).
Finally to coincide with the changes being made, the frequency of buses on Sundays and Public Holidays is also being improved. Specifically from 24 March buses on Service 1 will run every 45 minutes during the day, providing a service along the whole length of the route. This change means that people in Weston will have increased access to buses on Sundays from the end of March.
Service 2 (Kingsway – Ensleigh): A new Service 2 is being created from 24 March, providing journeys between Kingsway and Ensleigh in what is effectively an amalgamation between the existing Service 1 and Service 17. Specifically buses will follow the current route of Service 1 between the city centre and Ensleigh, while they will follow the route of Service 17 buses between Kingsway and the City Centre.
In general buses will operate every 30 minutes during the day Monday – Saturday, every hour Monday – Saturday evening and every 45 minutes during the day on Sundays and Public Holidays. The latter marks an improvement for local people, as at present there are no evening journeys on Service 1 between Ensleigh and the City Centre, however with some financial assistance from Bath & North East Somerset Council these journeys are now being introduced.
Service 6 and 7 (Bus Station – Fairfield Park / Larkhall): Following a financial review by the Council of those bus services that it supports a number of changes are being made to Service 6 and 7 in Bath. The changes being made specifically affect journeys during the evenings and on Sundays and Public Holidays.
From the 24 March most journeys provided by Service 6 and 7 will be operated on a commercial basis by First, with only four journeys in the evening supported by the Council (compared to five supported now). Coinciding with this change the frequency of buses during the evening is being altered. From 24 March the frequency of buses operating Monday – Saturday evenings is being improved with one bus every 45 minutes (compared to hourly at present). In addition to this the last Service 6 bus from Bath Bus Station to operate in the evening will leave 15 minutes earlier than present from the end of March (at 2330 hours).
On Sundays and Public Holidays the frequency of buses will also change as First takes over the running of them on a commercial basis. Instead of a combined 30 minute frequency, buses will operate every 45 minutes, with all buses operating as Service 6 at these times.
During the rest of the week buses will mostly remain as they are, with Service 6 and 7 continuing to operate as they do at present albeit with some minor timetable tweaks here and there. Customers are advised to consult the new timetables carefully.
Service 12 (City Centre – Whiteway): Following a financial review by the Council and a decision to reduce the amount spent on supporting bus services, Service 12 - which First operates on Sundays and Public Holidays on behalf of the local authority – is being withdrawn. People living along the route of the service who wish to travel will still be able to do so though as there are a number of alternative bus services that people could use instead.
Service 13 (Foxhill – Bathford): The way this service is funded is being altered in a move that will save the local authority money. From 24 March all journeys – with the exception of three evening (Monday – Saturday) journeys from Bathford and two evening journeys from Bathford - will be operated on a commercial basis. This includes journeys which operate on Sundays and Public Holidays. The timetable will remain the same on all days.
Service 14 (Weston – Odd Down): The timetable for this service is being completely redesigned to make it more consistent across the day, ensuring a regular service frequency for all parts of the route. There will also be changes to the funding arrangements for the service, with all journeys operating on a commercial basis – with no support from the local authority – from 24 March.
Specifically from 24 March buses will operate at least every 10 minutes throughout the day (Monday – Friday) across the whole route. This change resolves the confusion that can arise at present with buses running every 15 minutes between Weston and the City Centre, and every seven to eight minutes between the City Centre and Odd Down. There will also be improvements to services at the weekends – with buses on Saturday daytimes running every 12 minutes (compared to every 15 at present) and similarly operating every 20 minutes during the day on Sundays and Public holidays (compared to every half hour at present).
There will also be changes to evening services, with buses operating mostly every 20 minutes during Monday – Saturday evenings (an improvement from every half hour) and every 40 minutes on Sundays evenings. A later last journey from Weston to Bath Bus Station has also been added into the timetable, at 2335, as First responds to requests that have been made by hospital staff.
Finally, there will be a route change during the evening and on Sundays and Public Holidays with all buses following the route of Service 14 from 24 March (NB Service 14A will be removed from the timetable). This route change means all buses will travel via Bloomfield Drive during the evening and on Sundays and Public Holidays.
Service 15 (Bath Spa University – City Centre): A slight change is being made to the stopping arrangements of this service. From the end of March buses will stop outside Bath Spa Railway Station on Dorchester Street (stop Bh) instead of outside of the bus station.
Service 17 (Weston – Kingsway): This service is being withdrawn from 24 March but it is being replaced by a newly revised Service 1 and a new Service 2. Customers who use Service 17 at present are advised to check the new timetables for Service 1 and 2 instead.
Service 18 (Lower Oldfield Park – University of Bath): A slight change is being made to the stopping arrangements of this service. From the end of March buses will stop outside Bath Spa Railway Station on Dorchester Street (stop Bh) instead of outside of the bus station.
Service 22 (Bath Racecourse Service): This service, which existed only on race days to provide a shuttle between Bath City Centre and Bath Racecourse, is being withdrawn due to allow resources to be concentrated on the commercial bus network in Bath.
Service 41 (Odd Down Park and Ride Service): The timetable for this Park and Ride service is being adjusted slightly in the morning and afternoon peak periods to provide additional boarding time for customers. People who use the Park and Ride are unlikely to notice any substantial changes to the overall service provided.
Service 177 (Radstock – Bristol): To replace the current Service 678, which is currently operated by a third party but which is being withdrawn, a new Service 177 is being introduced. This will work in tandem with Service 178 (see below) to effectively provide Council funded extensions to existing commercial journeys. The extended journeys will be funded by Bath & North East Somerset Council and will provide three journeys between Radstock and Bristol on Sundays and Public Holidays. Notably Service 177 journeys will follow the same route as Service 178 but in addition to the normal route will serve Writhlington and Park Estate in Keynsham. To make things easier for customers people wishing to travel from Bristol to Bath, using Services 177 and 178, will be able to stay on the same bus and buy through tickets should they be required.
Service 178 (Bath – Bristol): The timetable of this service is changing slightly. Specifically some early morning journeys (0650 Monday to Friday departure from Keynsham to Bath and 0800 Monday to Friday departure from Midsomer Norton to Bath) are being brought forward slightly – by five minutes each. Customers who use these early journeys should consult the new timetables carefully to ensure they understand how they may affect them and any important journeys they make.
In addition to this and following the award of a contract by Bath & North East Somerset Council, there will be a Service 178 journey to Bristol departing Bath at 2130 (Monday – Saturday) . A return journey will also be added in, departing Bristol at 2315 hours. These journeys will operate to and from Bristol Bus Station.
Finally, there are some changes to the funding arrangements of Service 178, with all Sunday and Public Holiday daytime journeys being taken on commercially by First, rather than being supported by the B&NES Council.
Service 179 (Bath – Midsomer Norton): From 24 March all journeys on Service 179 (with the exception of the last journey in either direction on Sundays and Public Holidays) will be provided commercially by First, with no support from B&NES.
Service 338/339/X39 (Bath – Bristol): The timetables of these service are being altered slightly during the evenings, with some Service 338 journeys renumbered as Service 339 and vice versa. This change is being made to ensure that the buses have equal amounts of boarding time at both ends of the route, helping to ensure that all the journeys start on time and that the timetable is more reliable overall. Customers are advised to take note of the changes being made, especially those travelling via Keynsham as the times of buses completing this route will be altered during the evenings.
In addition to these changes, an extra journey in each direction is being added into the timetable. This change will ensure that there are consistent departures every 30 minutes throughout the evening on Service 338 and 339.
Finally some minor changes are being made the Monday to Saturday daytime timetables of Services 338, 339 and X39 (especially affecting Saturday departures for Service X39). Customers are advised to check the new timetables carefully before travelling.