On Sunday, workers on behalf of the council were scurrying round the city's bus stops posting the new timetables that First Bus had introduced that very day. In some back office, similar changes had being made to on-line information, like the Travel Plus real-time pages and the Traveline South-West pages.
Other essential changes to be made at public expense will be to update the city bus map, though for some considerable time yet passengers will have to make do with the outdated one (published as recently as July)
First were just as quick to update their own website with the changes, and an explanation
Not too bad for those with web access, then. But a dead loss for those without. First Bus, the architects and decision makers behind the changes, had promised to distribute paper copies of the new timetables, but none were to be seen at the usual outlets – the Bus Station, Temple Meads, and the Tourist Information Centre (the last two checked today, Thursday!)
Most Stockwood bus users will have been surprised to see, instead of the familiar 54 bus, a newcomer with a 2 on the front plying the same route. (In the 48 hours since, several 54's were spotted – presumably last week's buses running late). The number change seems to be merely cosmetic, but it does mean quite disproportionate change in travel information services. The new, more frequent, timetable is billed as providing an evenly spaced 5-minute frequency (together with the 1 Broomhill – Cribbs Causeway service) on the shared route between Temple Meads and the White Tree roundabout on the Downs. Seeing will be believing.
But these minutiae are as nothing compared with the impact on Sneyd Park (which is, of course, where Peter Abraham comes in to the story). There, First have the effrontery to introduce a route change on the outbound no.40 route moving it a street away from its present course along the narrow Julian Road – where, they say, 'inconsiderate parking' affects the punctuality and reliability of services.
Cue outrage from Cllr Abraham, faithfully relayed by the Post. Consultation on these changes was seriously limited. (He's right on that). Never mind that the changes on this particular route will provide late buses between Bristol and Avonmouth (the lack of which Cllr A has complained of volubly – and rightly – before). Never mind that its purpose is to get buses running to time despite the best efforts of local car drivers to delay them.
Oddly, it's been left to Alderman Brenda Hugill, ex Labour councillor for Lawrence Hill, to try to get the Mayor to explain First's failure to consult the public over the route change at Sneyd Park. Cllr Abraham has bigger fish to fry at Tuesday's full council meeting; he's moving a motion of no confidence in First. It reads:
“This Council has ‘no confidence’ in the ability of First to run an affordable, comprehensive and reliable bus service for the benefit of the people of Bristol. Accordingly, as a matter of urgency, we call upon the Mayor and his Cabinet to consider every option available to them to remedy this situation, and finally deliver the kind of quality public transport provision this city deserves.”
Few could disagree with the sentiment, or the evidence – for as long as I can remember, successive council transport bosses have been struggling to get any significant co-operation from First. But it is, as the BBC's Robin Markwell notes
“a purely symbolic gesture by Bristol's Tories as the council does not control the buses “
Perhaps if the motion was phrased to put pressure on government to change the law that gives First it's disproportionate and self-serving powers, it would be a bit more relevant to the real problem.
As it is, it's mere grandstanding, as self-serving as anything that the bus company does.
[The 'golden motion' on Tuesday, to be moved by Tess Green, is much more constructive – it's to make sure council contracts don't go to companies operating employment blacklists. Might be interesting to see what the Tory line is* on that.....]
(added 10th Sept)
* No surprises there. Tory councillors, including our two from Stockwood, followed like sheep behind their leader, who opposed the Green motion, dismissing it as a 'rentamotion' but otherwise offering no opinion on the companies who operate illegal blacklists, some of them being Tory funders. Fortunately the rest of the council were a bit more principled and the motion was carried comfortably.
Meanwhile....The 1/2 timetable is out now on paper. The delay must have been to get the proofreading right.