The reasons for the passenger loss

HAVING read the criticism of the First bus company in the Weston Mercury of March 19 I felt it was worth looking at reasons for passenger loss other than the recession. Maybe I am wrong but I find current bus company management remote and unimaginative. G

HAVING read the criticism of the First bus company in the Weston Mercury of March 19 I felt it was worth looking at reasons for passenger loss other than the recession. Maybe I am wrong but I find current bus company management remote and unimaginative. Going back in time when Badgerline was formed there was a keen management team who introduced new buses, a striking livery of yellow and green, improved seating, new shops where travel information was available and plenty of publicity.

A majority of the staff inherited from the old firm, 'the Tramways' as many called it, embraced the new identity and indeed invested in the company through share purchase subsequently becoming First shareholders. Badgerline did not get everything right; many people feeling aggrieved at the loss of the bus station for instance.

Badgerline merged with Grampian regional Transport although in reality GRT took over Badgerline, whose management team gradually departed and where new procedures killed off loyalty from employees most of whom left. As an example, longer shifts were introduced. The Badgerline name was removed meaning there was no longer a local identity and the head office was relocated to Aberdeen.

I spoke to a passenger on the 5A route who said that he wasn't surprised at the withdrawal of buses to Hutton as ACL were picking up passengers on the most profitable part of the route. Here is a case where some customers benefit from cheaper fares to the detriment of others at the ends of the route who lose their services altogether. So whose fault is it that Hutton will have no buses? First or ACL. Please don't think I am anti competition, as I feel first fares are expensive and that the company needs to be kept on its toes but I'm not so keen if the ripple effect means that those without cars are deprived of public transport. Incidentally, in Badgerline days, mini buses to Hutton ran every 10 minutes and still made a profit.

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I travel on the 121 route from time to time to get to Bristol Airport and certainly there are few people travelling between the airport and Wrington although loadings between Winscombe and Weston are better. Withdrawal of the 121 could be diverted on to the A38 to rejoin its original route at Sidcot. This would entail a longer journey time from Weston to Wells and maybe an interval of longer than the current hour but would mean Churchill and Langford (with a walk) would still have a service. Perhaps the currently airport coach could become a circular, airport, Winford, Bristol, A370, Weston and 121 route back to the airport and vice versa, however the fares structure would need to be changed and no doubt agreement obtained from Bristol Airport. What is interesting is that neither North Somerset which has subsidised this route or First have promoted it in the same sort of way as the X1 with adverts on the sides of the buses. When questionnaires for the Locking Parish Plan were sent out three years ago, residents were asked whether they were aware that the 121 called at Bristol Airport. Ninety percent of those who replied said they were not.

What about the Local Authority. At the last Annual General meeting of Locking Parish Council, I asked the District Councillor who attended as to why Weston had no bus station when all the surrounding towns Bristol, Bath, Wells, Bridgwater and Taunton had. He agreed that it was very unsatisfactory with bus stops and buses scattered around the town centre but North Somerset had no money. I wrote to South West Regional Development Agency enquiring about possible funding and they replied that there was funding for central Weston but not for a bus station which would be the responsibility of North Somerset.

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What if you want a bus to Bristol? The X1 starts in High Street, the 350 in Regent Street, the 21 in Alexandra Parade and if you are using a National Express Coach, Locking Road Car Park which if on foot from the town entails a circuitous walk around railings and pedestrian traffic lights but at least there is a public toilet available. For the other central bus stops a long walk is necessary (for a toilet). For the visitor, firstly you need to locate the street and then the appropriate shelter.

Weston is supposed to be included in a Greater Bristol Transport Plan and I believe part of this includes the Junction 21 Bus Lane (no more comment on this) but it will be interesting to see how much useful benefit Weston will receive from this plan.


Birch Close, Locking

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