Transport in Bristol is in chaos. Car usage has been on the rise for years, resulting in greater congestion and pollution. In the face of this, our city desperately needs improved public transport.
However, our current system relies on private companies running bus routes with very little oversight from the council. Private firms can change routes, amend timetables or even scrap services with short notice and without consultation with the council or residents. This allows large bus companies to focus on making huge profits without a care for the local communities that rely on their services. This is not good enough and we must demand better.
The Bus Services Act 2017 devolved powers to regional mayors to establish bus franchising schemes. Under such a scheme, the authority can decide the routes and timetables that the city needs, then the bus companies have to bid to run them. This is already how things work in London and would allow us to take back control of our public transport for the good of the whole city.
The West of England Combined Authority stated it would produce its Bus Strategy in 2017, but is now expected to be opened up for consultation in January 2019, over a year late.
Started by: Max Langer
On reaching 3500 signatures a full council debate will be held.
This ePetition ran from 24/10/2018 to 03/07/2019 and has now finished.
3799 people signed this ePetition.
Thank you to the organisers and the public for the petition. It is worth acknowledging that a lot of people signed the petition in the autumn, when First Bus was experiencing a crisis in the form of a driver shortage – which is now sorted.
As we see it the key issues are reliability, frequency, cost and poorly served routes. It is worth emphasising that the latest fares rise is not something supported by our administration.
So is franchising the answer to those problems?
It’s something which should be considered at a WECA level when it’s considering policy, though the report alone for Greater Manchester’s CA cost at least £11 million and after all that, the Government could still block the business case, they still have a veto. Even if they said yes, it would take three years to introduce franchising after that – franchising is neither a silver bullet nor a quick fix.
Bristol City Council’s priority at the moment is the Bus Deal investment partnership. So we are looking at dealing with the issues of priority, more bus lanes, priority at junctions and traffic lights. If we do that and invest a certain level then the bus company has in return offered to double the frequency on the routes that have the priority features and clean up the bus fleet with 150 new biogas buses. We feel this is a deal worth pursuing now rather than hoping that franchising will solve all our problems in the medium or long term.
London is quoted as an example but it has disproportionate resources, some £720 million of subsidies despite bus journeys there falling by 162 million since 2015. This is the key issue – the level of subsidy that is needed to run the service we want. That’s the issue, how do we get the revenue into the system to deal with the reliability issues, the poorly served areas. We would like to have free bus travel for children or even into higher education and we will explore with WECA any opportunity to link funding available to subsidising bus travel.
Furthermore we have the mayor leading the launch of the Great Western Powerhouse region in Parliament recently which should help see the west of England get its fair share too. Making the case for London style funding for buses which is the approach we are taking.
Cllr Kye Dudd
Cabinet Member with responsibility for Transport & Energy
Webcast of petition debate:
The petition has secured 3,793 signatures to date as verified from those who live, work or study in Bristol.