North Somerset Council is launching a formal tender to resume its locally run bus services following the announcement that First Bus will scrap many routes across the county.
Route and service cuts announced by First and Citistar are set to take effect next month and are expected to leave some communities without bus services and cut links to jobs, shops, hospitals, schools and colleges.
Subject to a successful takeover, the council’s proposals would cushion the worst cuts and provide a lifeline to many key travel routes. Current services are due to be retired on April 24.
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However, the council warns the scale of the cuts means it is unlikely to replace all the roads at risk and tough decisions will have to be made about which services it can ultimately save.
Councilor Don Davies, leader of the council, said: “Buses play a vital role in serving communities in North Somerset. They help residents get to work, shop and access essential services like schools, colleges and health services. They are also essential to our response to the climate emergency.
“However, we simply don’t have enough funding to replace all the routes with identical meaning that many people may have to walk a little further to find a bus and may have to change buses along the way as there will be fewer direct connections to our city centers and less frequent services on many routes, some services will also start later in the morning or end earlier in the evening.
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“We again call on the government to recognize this and continue to provide financial support to bus companies until passenger numbers approach pre-pandemic levels. In North Somerset, we have seen around 70% of passengers returning to services, underlining how essential these buses are for our communities. »
First Bus said the changes are necessary due to the impact of continued driver shortages and to address routes and journeys which, due to low passenger numbers, are not commercially viable. Dropping some routes will ensure that all remaining services can be operated more reliably.
In Weston-super-Mare specifically, First Bus will no longer operate services 2 (City Center to South Road), 4 (City Center to Bleadon, 5 (Worle – Holm Road) and 6 (City Center to Worlebury ) from April 24. Other routes will be temporarily less frequent.
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Doug Claringbold, chief executive of First West of England, said: “Although the government has extended emergency funding for a further six months, continuing issues with driver availability mean further action is needed beyond the changes we made at the end of January to ensure that we can operate more reliable services for our customers.
“As part of this, we need to ensure that our resources are focused on the areas that need them most, which means we have had to act on services and routes that are simply not commercially viable as we plan the end of this funding in October.
“We only reduce or remove services as a very last resort and the problem of low passenger numbers and the resulting viability of some services predates the pandemic and will therefore not be solved by a recovery in passenger numbers. .
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“None of these decisions were easy, but we need to make these adjustments to provide an overall reliable service to our customers so they can plan their routes with certainty. What we do effectively is build resilience of our network in and around Weston-super-Mare as we rebuild in the months and years to come.
“I want everyone to be clear that we are 100% committed to providing the best possible public transport services in Weston-super-Mare and the rest of North Somerset and will continue to work closely with the North Somerset Council for this purpose.
“This commitment is underscored by the imminent roll-out of 27 new low-emission diesel buses across North Somerset and an ongoing driver recruitment campaign to ensure we get people where they want to go safely, efficiently and sustainably.
As commercial bus companies operate the vast majority of routes in North Somerset and decide where and how often they run, the council has the power to order additional services and fill gaps in these commercial services which would otherwise leave people without access to public transport.
The new contracts would come into effect from April 24 to ensure continuity of travel as much as possible. The council hopes to announce details of the replacement services before the end of March, once the tendering process is complete.
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This notice was published: 2022-03-18 18:24:57