Bristol congestion hinders growth in bus use, says First West of England MD

James Freeman laments Bristol congestion situation as barrier to bus appeal

In an open letter to users of First Bus West of England, Managing Director James Freeman has apologised for the “appalling disruption” of services across the city and suggests Bristol congestion could be halting bus usage growth in the region.

His letter responds to criticism on social media of severe delays despite the operator’s investment in new vehicles and an increase in bus patronage across Bristol.

According to Mr Freeman, new vehicles on the m3 Metrobus service between Emersons Green and the city centre were suffering hour-long delays on the A4174 ring road within a week of their launch. Extra buses and drivers had to be sought to account for the delays in services.

Long queues also meant buses were soon at full capacity and unable to pick up passengers from stops further down the line, he adds.

Meanwhile, long-term roadworks at Great Stoke roundabout on Bradley Stoke Way also led to long disruptions at peak times on the m1 service, which has recently seen timetable changes.

Mr Freeman says the £230m investment of public money that went into metrobus and £10.5m investment from operators into the new vehicles will be wasted if improvements are not made.

“Somehow the way has to be found to make these Metrobuses able to run through these areas of increasingly chronic congestion,” he says.

“This approach has started to be recognised in Bristol but Metrobus can’t work if we don’t realise that we must take urgent action.”

Mr Freeman adds that the delays are likely a barrier to bus patronage, which has been increasing in the region.

Bristol was a standout performer in DfT’s annual industry statistics report on bus passenger growth – patronage rose by 52.3% in nine years. Despite this, Mr Freeman asserts those numbers could be higher if action is taken against the congestion.