Bromley Heath a 'black hole for buses'
Councillors Liz Brennan, Ben Burton and James Griffiths are calling for the number 5 to be restored to Bromley Heath
BROMLEY Heath is "becoming a black hole for bus services" after the number 5 service was diverted out of the estate.
Bus company First said the decision to stop the service running via Bromley Heath Road, Quakers Road, Queensholm Drive, Four Acre Road and Badminton Road was due to "very low customer demand".
But the change has been criticised by passengers – and sparked a political row over who is to blame.
First announced the changes to the 5, which links Downend and Bristol city centre via Fishponds and Eastville, with no prior notice at the end of August.
Sunday, bank holiday and some evening journeys were also axed, with the service now operating via Cleeve Hill and the Horseshoe.
One Bromley Heath resident who contacted the Voice said timetables were left up, and the first she knew of the changes was when she was waiting at a stop and another resident told her the bus no longer called there.
She said: "It's absolutely disgraceful. Without this valued bus, we residents of Bromley Heath are stranded, and we are not happy. It doesn't just affect OAPs and the infirm, it's a variety of residents of all ages - we don't all have cars."
A spokesperson for operator First West of England said: "We apologise for any inconvenience this might cause our customers.
"All our services are under constant review and if the case can be made to reinstate this service due to sufficient demand, this will of course be considered.
"Customers in the Bromley Heath area may be able to complete their journeys by using services 19, 48 and Y2."
The 5 was introduced to Bromley Heath in May 2018 when it was diverted away from Cleve Hill, in part to make up for the loss of the X48 fast service to the city centre, which was axed to make way for the Metrobus.
The nearest Metrobus stops are at Hambrook and the Willy Wicket.
Frenchay & Downend ward South Gloucestershire councillors Liz Brennan, Ben Burton and James Griffiths have started a petition calling on the West of England Combined Authority, which has a role in planning the region's public transport, to fund the 5 so the cut can be reversed.
They are also calling for a new Metrobus stop on the ring road at Bromley Heath and for Metrobus services to be diverted through Bromley Heath as a temporary measure.
The councillors said: "The number 5 is a vital service that is used by many residents as a direct route to Bristol for commuting and shopping, and it is really disappointing to see that WECA has not fought for residents in Bromley Heath or bothered to consult any bus users.
"Not only does this mean that the community is further being ignored by providers, but elderly users and those travelling to and from work in the evenings and on Sundays have been left in the lurch."
They said the decision was made with no consultation and many passengers had been "left in the dark waiting at bus stops for services that did not arrive", adding: "Bromley Heath is fast becoming a black hole for bus services, with many routes being reduced or altered in recent years."
Asked about rerouting Metrobus services, the First spokesperson said: "This would be difficult to do as a short-term solution, as it requires certain infrastructure to be in place, such as bus stops of a specific specification, including an iPoint for tickets. However, this is something that we will pass on to the metrobus team for their consideration."
South Glos Conservative cabinet member for transport, Steve Reade, has called on Labour Metro Mayor Dan Norris, who is in charge of Weca, to freeze plans to recruit a new environment director and other staff, and divert the funding to bus services instead.
Mr Norris, who won the post for Labour from the Tories in May's election, said his political opponents were "deliberately confusing two separate issues", and that an "ill-thought out" two-thirds reduction in government funding for the region’s bus services, which took effect on August 31, had led to the cuts.
The Metro Mayor has sent a letter to Baroness Vere, the minister in charge of buses, calling for the government to slow the rate at which it reduces its pandemic support for services. The letter received backing from local Tory MPs Jack Lopresti and Chris Skidmore, as well as Lib Dem Wera Hobhouse and Bristol's four Labour MPs.
The councillors' petition can be found at bit.ly/3nNwfVU
Call for stop to be improved: Page 24
Metro Mayor: Page 31