The dire state of the region’s buses will be the subject of further protest by a coalition of community campaign groups next month.
Youth climate groups Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate (BYS4C) and Extinction Rebellion Youth Bristol (BYS4C) will lead a march at 1pm on Saturday, September 9, from College Green. They will be joined by fellow coalition supporters Nailsea Climate Emergency Group, Bristol Students for Transport, Winterbourne and Frome Valley Environmental Group, and Ditch First Bus.
Bristol-based student Sam, 20, said: ‘Our local buses are in a dire state. Dozens of route cuts have also isolated some people without cars from local services, education, jobs, and socialising, especially in rural areas, affecting the young, elderly, and working classes.
‘On top of this, young person and student fares have continued to rise, despite a cap on adult fares. It’s time we took the common sense step of delivering a bus network that works for all our communities, with public control being the best way of achieving this goal.’
Buses in the region are ultimately under the purview of the West of England Combined Authority. Bus First Bus is the main operator across the region. BYS4C and XRYB are demanding the following reforms to buses in region:
- Free for under 25s, students, and apprentices
- A fairer bus service, including reversing the cuts to bus routes and improving working conditions for drivers.
- Franchising, a system whereby local authorities decide bus routes and timetables and providers bid to operate those routes.
Calls for franchising, especially in Bristol, have grown over the last year in response to repeated service and route cuts by FirstBus – 42 routes were cut in April this year alone. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority is due to implement a franchising system in September. West of England metro mayor Dan Norris has so far demurred on the question of whether franchising is right for the region.
Local campaigner Hannah, 22, said: ‘With public control through franchising, local government can take control of the network, preventing route and service cuts, integrating different routes, and lowering fares with these gained efficiencies. Under fully private control by companies such as FirstBus, we’ve seen a failed bus network. Public control works well for London and is being adopted by both Manchester and Wales – we need Metro Mayor Dan Norris to take action now to fix our broken buses.’
Ditch First Bus recently protested on College Green and launched a petition calling on West of England leaders to take public transport under public control.
XRY have previously protested for better buses. Their protests have seen them block Airport Flyer buses en route to Temple Meads train station. Despite cuts to other services, the Airport Flyer has seen an increase in frequency, to the annoyance of the youth campaigners.
Feature image: Simon Holliday.