Outcry as First changes Downend bus service again

Published on: 02 Mar 2015

BUS company First’s decision to stop running the number 5 bus service into Downend and Bromley Heath will leave many people isolated, parish councillors fear.

From March 29, the route will terminate at Oldbury Court, leaving residents of the Overndale Road area without easy access to Downend’s shops, restaurants, banks, building societies, the Post Office or Downend Library.

It will also mean there is no direct route from Downend to Stapleton or Eastville and the Eastgate Centre.

First has made the change to improve the punctuality and reliability of the service, but councillor Sheila Ottewell, chairwoman of Downend & Bromley Heath Parish Council’s traffic committee, says the company does not recognise the problems it will cause.

She wants to see the number 5 route restored along Overndale Road and Cleeve Hill into Downend Centre.

“This is a commercial decision by First. Overall this appears to be a slap in the face for Bristol’s ‘Green Capital’ credentials,” she said.

“ The new routes have already been registered with the Traffic Commissioner so they cannot be changed immediately. However at a time when the use of public transport is being encouraged, there is no valid reason not to extend the number 5 service to Downend Centre using the route employed until last year. We will be pressing First to do this at the earliest opportunity.”

Downend’s bus services were altered in April 2014, when First axed the number 4 service and changed the route of the number 5. This led to complaints about buses going past Bromley Heath Infant and Junior schools in Quakers Road, so the route was changed in August to use Queensholm Drive instead.

First is introducing a new X48 route to serve Bromley Heath as well as the new Lyde Green development and the Bristol and Bath Science Park.

Councillor Ottewell said this new express service would be welcomed by residents wanting a speedy trip into Bristol. It will follow part of the old X62 route so will not go past the school entrances.

James Freeman, managing director of First West of England, said: “We are changing part of the number 5 route in a real effort to make the service – which has historically suffered from poor punctuality – run on time. We understand that people may not welcome these adjustments, but we’re doing what we can to both explain what’s happening, and minimise the impact on local people by altering other services too.”

The terminus for the number 5 will move from Rupert Street to Lewins Mead. First says this will reduce the amount of congestion that buses get caught up in the centre, and will mean that buses are more able to keep to time.

First is recruiting up to 70 drivers and is putting double-decker buses on to some routes, including the X49 Bristol to Yate service, which runs through Staple Hill, to deliver the improved services.

The company says that the revised timetable takes into account changes in the traffic conditions such as the rollout of 20mph zones as well as responding to increased demand.

For more information about the changes being made, or to view the new timetables for the affected services, log onto: www.firstgroup.com/bristol. The new timetables will be uploaded (under Journey Planning / Timetable Booklets) by early March, and will be available in hard copy format by mid March (from Travel Shops).

 

See Letter on Page 7

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