Rural bus routes could get axed in proposals drawn up by First Bus

First Bus will give people a chance to ride for free next week. 

First Bus will give people a chance to ride for free next week. - Credit: FirstGroup

Rural bus routes in North Somerset could face the axe in proposals drawn up by First West of England.

Under a network review plan, First Bus has sought to assess the 'viability of all routes' when governmental funding ends this autumn.

The services expected to be withdrawn in October flow through rural communities which aren't sufficiently serviced by the already existing bus network, and do not have easy access to modes of transport like rail.

If cuts are made, some communities will be left without vital links to shops, places of work, hospitals, schools and colleges.

The proposals will affect services: X2 (Yatton to Bristol), X5 (Weston to Bristol, serving Clevedon and Portishead) and the 126 Mendip Xplorer (Weston to Wells, serving Locking, Banwell, Sandford and Winscombe).

This comes after fares on First Bus increased by as much as 33 per cent in Weston last month, following a swathe of cuts to existing town routes.

A spokesperson for First West of England said: "We must stress no decisions have been made, and it would be inappropriate to comment on speculation at this stage. 

Most Read

"The majority of our networks will be retained, and we will work to match our resources with demand for services in order to provide our customers with the most reliable network.  

"We are committed to constructive partnerships and have been working with local authorities to provide as much notice as possible of any changes to allow them to support alternative arrangements."

Cuts to the First network are yet to be decided, but announcement of possible changes has prompted North Somerset Council to hit back at the private bus company.

In a statement released last night (August 4), the council said despite its £105million funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) to deliver a 'historic' plan to transform North Somerset's bus services over the next three years, the council has been informed DfT funding 'cannot' be used to support services that are 'commercially unsustainable.'

The council also warned that it's 'unlikely' to arrange a solution where every service under threat is saved, and 'difficult decisions' will have to be made.

North Somerset Council’s executive member with responsibility for transport and highways, Cllr Steve Hogg, said: "We recognise the challenges commercial bus companies face - there is a shortage of drivers and usage hasn’t yet returned to levels seen before the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We haven’t yet received the funding to deliver our bus service improvement plan and without additional government funding, we can’t afford to replace current routes.

"We are committed to lobbying government and working with partners, communities and bus operators to explore every avenue to maintain vital services wherever possible.

"Across North Somerset, we’ve seen around 75 per cent of passengers return to services, underlining just how critical these buses are to our communities."