Going backwards:(

On Thursday March 2nd, there was an audit committee meeting of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). A number of councillors at the meeting aired their concerns about the impact of bus service cuts which will kick in from April. Cllr. Bradshaw (Labour, Bedminster) told the meeting: “There is a real crisis in passenger transport in our region. There seems to be a near collapse in the bus network.”

Veteran public transport campaigner, Dave Redgewell had this to say to the meeting regarding the forthcoming cuts:

“For miles and miles in South Bristol there will be no bus services.

“This idea that it’s a 15-minute walk to a bus stop, I’m sorry, it’s not. Some of those gaps are two to three miles.

“East Bristol has no service at all on the whole corridor for some of the poorest citizens, which WECA should be worried about. No bus service in St Paul’s and St Werburgh’s through to Easton and Stapleton, no bus service in Lawrence Hill, parts of bus services cut in Southmead and across north Bristol, and the rural areas are really devastated.

“In South Gloucestershire there’s an election coming but dogs are not just for Christmas and buses are not just for elections. But what we have is a policy of extending services for two months.

“That’s not a policy. We don’t have a two-month extension policy and then just throw everyone under the bus, but that is what we are doing.”

This is a full report of the meeting on Bristol Live: Bristol region’s bus network in state of ‘near collapse’ 7.3.23. Bristol Live are running a ‘Better Buses For Bristol’ campaign, a move which has been echoed by other media outlets in the city such as The Bristol Cable and B24/7. When a number of media outlets start campaigning at pretty much the same time on the dire state of bus services across Bristol and the surrounding region, it’s pretty clear that we’re in a bad place. It should be noted that neighbouring Bath is also being hit by bus service cuts.

We’re all being bombarded with messaging telling us to leave the car at home and find more environmentally friendly ways of travelling around. Ways that range from walking and cycling through to using buses and trains. With the best will in the world, walking and cycling won’t get people to all the destinations they need to get to and they will need other means. With the bus service in a state of collapse and a train service that is non-existent in many parts of Bristol, how are people supposed to get around? Given the state of the public transport ‘offer’, it’s no surprise that people are reluctant to stop using their cars. As for those of us who don’t drive, basically, we’re screwed! As we argued at some length in this piece, we’re: Set up to fail 24.10.22. For those of us who don’t drive, it really feels like this: A war on non drivers… 26.2.23.

What makes the situation worse is that WECA who have a responsibility to coordinate transport policy across the region are basically dysfunctional. Anyone who has ever sat through a WECA meeting will tell you that! We sat through the WECA meeting held in Keynsham earlier on this year where the future of bus services across the region was under discussion. Time spent watching the WECA mayor, Dan Norris, offering the watching public a masterclass in passive aggression towards the leaders and deputies who made up the assembly. WECA are so dysfunctional, they’ve been put on a government watchlist as reported here: WECA placed on government ‘watchlist’ after council leaders’ rows 6.3.23.

While the leaders across the region indulge in their bickering, posturing and point scoring, the situation for the travelling public continues to deteriorate. They need their heads metaphorically banging together. If after that they still can’t cooperate to deliver the public transport system we need, they need to get the heck out of the way for people who can. Also, until the public transport system shows clear signs of improvement, the regional leaders and councillors really need to ease off on nagging people to leave the car at home when in too many instances, there’s no viable alternative. We’re going backwards when it comes to bus and train services across the region. Fixing that has to be the number one priority before we can think about how we want our cities, towns and villages to develop in the future.

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