By Zoë Crowther, Students’ Union Correspondent
University of Bristol student Max Langer has been lobbying for a Council-led solution to bus route changes and cancellations.
The ‘Take Control of Bristol’s Buses’ petition has recently reached 2000 signatures. It is getting closer to reaching the Council’s threshold of 3500 signatures to be considered for full debate.
Bristol students have been among those recently affected by timetable changes. Reductions to the number 9 bus service have meant that there are less frequent transport links between the popular students areas of Redland and Clifton to the city centre and Temple Meads.
A motion has been submitted to Bristol Council which calls on Tim Bowles, Mayor of the West of England, to deliver a London-style franchising system which would give the Council more responsibility over routes, fares, timetables and vehicle standards.
Speaking to Epigram, Max Langer explained the potential benefits of introducing the suggested changes: ‘Franchising helps accountability because at the moment private bus companies can run whatever routes they like, at any frequency and all the council can do is suggest improvements. This allows last minute route changes and cancellations that leave communities cut off.
‘By franchising, these decisions would be made by elected officials and routes could be chosen based on their value to communities, not just for the profits that can be raked in.’
Service changes announced for a number of First Bus routes in Bristol and Bath from Sunday 6th January. More information on all service changes can be found here: https://t.co/W2KV6U7q5B pic.twitter.com/liGpCvVljp— First WestofEngland (@FirstBSA) January 3, 2019
Langer also mentioned that authority control of vehicle standards would allow them to set more ambitious emissions targets and begin a ‘push towards a zero-emissions bus system.’
This campaign is a continuation of concerns voiced at a march which took place on November 24. Protestors demanded better services from First Bus, after many passengers faced cancelled or overcrowded buses.
First Bus has recently announced that there will be signficant alterations to Bristol routes from January 6, to coincide with the launch of a new metrobus service.
The bus services have been defended by the Managing Director of First Bus, James Freeman, who said that ‘a lot of the disruption actually results from the very severe traffic congestion that is now an everyday occurrence across the West of England.’
Thank you to everyone for braving the weather! We can't stop here though, sign our petition and demand better from our public transport! pic.twitter.com/uwRlcXAK2Z— Take Control of Bristol's Buses (@BristolsBuses) November 24, 2018
A Council meeting is scheduled to take place in March, and Langer told Epigram he is ‘keen to stage a big rally before [this] meeting to make it clear that Bristolians care about this issue and want their councillors and mayor to act on it.
‘Students rely on our bus service massively and so their experience of Bristol is shaped by it. By taking control of our buses, students will be able to make their voice heard much more.’
Featured image: Epigram / Ollie Smith