Agenda item

Public Transport


The Service Manager - Sustainable Transport and Group Manager for Highways and Traffic introduced themselves and explained that they would present and then and take questions one section at a time if that was acceptable to members, which it was. 


Bus Strategy

Transport Officers introduced the Bus Strategy section via some presentation slides.  Some of the key points were as follows

  • West of England (WoE) bus use has continued to increase.  Figures show that Bristol is bucking the national trend on patronage and doing quite well compared to other local authorities.  Student use of buses has risen too.
  • Officers said that it’s difficult to find funding for public transport compared to funding for motoring.
  • First Bus currently severs services in the city centre to help improve reliability i.e. so that congestion doesn’t continually affect the outer areas as much.
  • A review of the network is currently taking place and being carried out by ARUP. They have already reported that the way things are currently done in Bristol isn’t as efficient as it could be and patronage can be increased further.
  • It wouldn’t be until next year when the strategy was ready to be consulted upon. 


Questions and comments from Members: 

  • It was said that there are still far too many old and polluting buses being used in some parts of the city. 
  • Members thought that Old Market Bus Interchange worked well as an interchange.  But it was suggested that they are future proofed to enable the use of future technology.
  • Members agreed that there were still gaps in the current route map; for example East Bristol still has no direct route to Temple Meads Station.
  • Members considered it positive that residents will be consulted about bus routes but asked whether they shouldn’t also be asked about additional plans or ideas for the future?  Officers said they need to be careful what they ask for views on because it needs to be considered whether we have the physical space to do some things i.e. are people willing to walk further or change buses or give up road space for other things etc.  Members suggested that was why people ought to be asked those questions.
  • Members expressed their continued frustration that First Bus still has a ‘monopoly’ on buses in Bristol and were of the view that the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) needed to do more about this.
  • It was said that although WECA isn’t officially the Transport Authority yet, it is correct in doing this work because apart from the recent introduction of Metrobus Bristol’s Bus Network had not changed since the 1990s. It was agreed that building the orbital routes outward would provide room for more interchanges.  And that interchanges would not work effectively until all the bus operators are working under one single ticket system.  This in his view really needed to be pushed though as quick as possible.
  • Other Members agreed that more interchanges and cross-boundary tickets were the way forward as well as the need for more high frequency buses.
  • Some Members felt that franchising would solve many problems but that the Council had already been talking about this for many years.




Bus Deal

Officers took Members through the relevant slides that had been published and explained that the ‘Bus Deal’ is a partnership arrangement to deliver significant improvements to services and aims to increase bus patronage.  Some of the key points made by officers and Members were as follows:

  • This project is also a means of implementing the Bus Strategy objectives and requires gaining commitments from both the bus operator and transport authority.
  • As part of the project, officers have identified where buses are delayed the most and which are the worst performing services across the city.  The Number 2 Service was identified as being the worst after officers spent time with bus drivers to detect the frequency and length of delays and causes of those delays.  Through new technology, signals and priorities will be improved on the routes.  The ‘Real Time Information’ (RTI) system will be linked into other transport systems such as traffic lights so it can be prioritised to help the service run faster.  Routes are also being looked at to ensure they are fit for purpose and more buses will be introduced year on year.  There will also be a process of cleaning the buses up with regards to the amount pollutants they’re emitting.  
  • Members suggested this project sounded very similar to the previous Better Bus Deal project.  However it was said that in this case they now need to be viewed as ‘set of individual deals or packages over as number of years’. 
  • A Member commented that the focus of the programme sounded very promising.  It was his view that in the past too much focus had been on infrastructure and not enough on actual passengers’ experiences. 


Smart and Integrated Ticketing

Officers took the Members though the published slides which explained what’s available now, what the vison is and what plan going forward is.   They said they were learning from Transport for London (TfL) and the timescales for implementation were around 4-6 years.   


  • Members enquired about the Smart Ticketing project plan phasing `and asked why three out of four phases didn’t show any timescales.  Officers responded that they needed to see how phase one or two went first.
  • A Member enquired if the project plan was currently BCC’s aspirations or was the bus company already signed up to this? It was said that the bus company were engaged on phase one but yes but that was still work to be done before the phase two could begin. 
  • A Member commented that he thought this was all excellent but requested it be progressed as fast as possible.
  • Another Member said they recognised that there are many obstacles to overcome but that WECA does have a considerable amount of funding for the regions transport.
  • Officers said that the road to smart ticketing had been a long and painful one.  What was really needed was a plan that all the providers signed up to.  It had previously been the Oyster Card but that way of doing things was ‘old hat’.  It was also highlighted how another local authority had spent £16 million on this issue with an operator and had ended up walking away without any results at all. 


WECA (West of England Combined Authority)  RTI (Real Time Information) System

Officers provided Members with a summary of the current system and how it operates.  It was said that Bristol runs the RTI system on-behalf of WECA now.

It was said that there had previously been two contractors but in January 2019 a new contractor was appointed and the system was changed from a radio system to a sim-card one.  There were some problems initially i.e. once the signal was lost it took around an hour for it to come back online.  However, since March or April it’s been performing much better and a new system will be installed in September.


Members were keen understand and discuss why there were different contractors.  Some said they were pleased this was being done as it is very annoying when buses on route just disappeared of the screen.

·          It was suggested that the period of time where the RTI hadn’t been working properly had been very detrimental to the usage.


Officers said they’d now pin-pointed where the main issues were and had hopefully fixed them now.  Officers said they were confident that passengers would soon start to see improvements.


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