First Bus faces criticism from rival company for ‘predatory’ service changes

PUBLISHED: 16:00 08 December 2017

First's changes will come into force on January 14.

First's changes will come into force on January 14.

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The director of a family-owned bus company has hit out at First’s ‘predatory’ actions after the public transport giant revealed it will compete with services in the New Year.

Citistar took over running the 4 and 4A services, which link Hutton and Bleadon to the town centre and Weston General Hospital, from Crosville in September on a six-month contract which is due to expire in April.

It runs an hourly service from Monday to Friday but will face competition from January 14 when First will change its 5 and 5A routes to alternate between stopping at Bleadon and Hutton – with some buses arriving just minutes before Citistar’s.

Citistar managing director Andrew Fear said: “I am truly disappointed in the actions of First to behave in such an unnecessarily predatory manner.

“Had they approached me to discuss a co-operative enhancement to the Hutton and Bleadon services, I would have been happy to discuss the matter with them.

“While we do not have the capacity to provide later or Saturday journeys which First have registered, daytime journeys could have been arranged to provide everyone with a better service.

“We are not on a long-term contract with North Somerset Council and coming to an arrangement to provide better services together would have been an opportunity for us both to improve service stability and our offerings to the public.

“First seem to prefer to neglect its existing services, further cutting the frequency on the existing routes 5 and 7 whilst wasting resources in duplicating the service provided by another operator.”

First says it is reducing the frequency of its number 5 route from a half-hourly to hourly service to reflect customer demand.

A spokesman added: “These changes are designed to ensure the longer-term commercial viability of the service and also to reflect customer demand.

“We are extending a number of journeys to Hutton and Bleadon, which utilises time that buses would otherwise be waiting at Uphill or Weston General Hospital.

“The timing of buses is designed to facilitate school movements and concessionary pass-holders.”

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