Bristol

Bus company defends Emerson's Green to Southmead cut

A bus operator in South Gloucestershire insists a service which travels to two hospitals is not financially viable.

First has been criticised by passengers and the council for wanting to withdraw the 18 service, which serves Frenchay and Southmead hospitals.

South Gloucestershire Council believes First has not considered its decision enough.

First said on average only seven people use the service per journey, and the company cannot afford that.

The 18 service is operated on behalf of the council on a net cost basis, which means the bus operator gets to keep the money from the fares.

'Commercial basis'

First said it had given the council three months' notice of its intention to withdraw from the route - which runs between Emerson's Green and Southmead, calling at Mangotsfield, Downend, Frenchay, UWE, Bristol Parkway Station, Little Stoke and Filton.

Regional manager Justin Davies said the company had spent a long time developing the service but the amount of revenue it takes does not match its original expectations.

"We've said to the council some of the service could be run on a commercial basis. Some of the buses are very busy, a lot of the others aren't, so all we're saying is that the amount of money we're receiving for doing that isn't sufficient," he said.

The bus company took over the route last September and the council said the number of people using it had risen from 8,000 to 15,000 per month.

Councillor Brian Allinson said the authority was always happy to discuss changes to routes and frequency with the bus operators.

"In this case the bus company has decided, without real consultation, to withdraw a service which is vital to the people of South Gloucestershire," he said.

"We have a finite amount of subsidy we can put forward - we are going to work very hard to replace this 18 service with some other form of service.

"It means if any additional money has to be found then we have to consider withdrawing a service elsewhere."

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