Attacks on Knowle buses amid subsidy row

Published on: 30 Sep 2016

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BUS company Wessex has vowed to keep running its newly-acquired 51 service despite a spate of four attacks in which bus windows were smashed while the vehicles drove the route in Knowle.

Police are taking special measures to try to catch the youths thought responsible. In the last attack, on September 20, a catapult was used to smash a windscreen which will cost £1,000 to replace.

There have also been reports of youths throwing rocks and fireworks at homes and cars around The Square, Knowle.

Wessex took over the 51, seen as a vital link between Whitchurch, Hengrove and Knowle, from rival operator First Bus on September 4, after First said it was no longer profitable.

Cllr Gary Hopkins, who led the campaign to save the 51, said the Wessex service is cheaper and is “massively popular,” with  1,000 people a day using it.

“I have been swamped with residents saying how they prefer the Wessex service,” he said.

Cllr Hopkins criticised the council for failing to reveal that First wanted to drop the 51 for several weeks in July. He also claimed that First had been allowed to keep a subsidy for running late-night services on the
51, when they no longer run it. 

A spokesman for First Bus said it had revised the 50 route to compensate for the loss of the 51. When the subsidy was agreed by the council “there was no prospect nor suggestion of a 51 operation by us or any operator,” he said.

Asked if First had suffered attacks on its buses in Knowle, the spokesman said it was an industry-wide issue that affects urban areas across the UK.

First, however, is still in the running to operate Metrobus, the £200m route which aims to slash journey times from South Bristol to the city centre and the north.

First confirmed it is in talks with the West of England Partnership.

But Wessex told the Voice that it “cannot justify operating any Metrobus services on a commercial basis”.

There has been speculation that Metrobus will fail to find an operator willing to operate it without subsidy.

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