Changes to 24 bus drive residents to despair
“Leave our bus service alone.” This was the resounding message from Ashton Vale residents who spoke to the South Bristol Voice at an information event about changes to the number 24 bus.
There has since been another meeting, organised by the Ashton Vale Together (AVT) group, which saw managing director of First, James Freeman, attend to address residents’ concerns.
As from September 15, the single decker bus will be replaced with a double decker and the route – which runs between Ashton Vale and Southmead Hospital – will no longer serve Ashton Drive due to issues fitting under the low railway bridge.
Towards Ashton Vale, the service will continue along Winterstoke Road towards Ashton Gate stadium, and then along the A370 and South Liberty Lane before terminating at Langley Crescent.
The route was previously designed to serve Silbury Road, but due to major street works planned, this is no longer feasible.
The journey towards Southmead will operate via Feeder Road, Ashton Road and Brunel Way before joining back onto Winterstoke Road, where the route will resume as normal.
Capacity issues is First Bus’s reason behind making the bus a double decker, with the service becoming “so full” at points in the journey that people cannot use it.
There will be one less service an hour during the day, Monday to Saturday, with the buses set to operate every 15 minutes instead of 12. There will be no changes to the bus’s frequency at other times of operation.
David Ball, of Trevanna Road, uses the bus regularly to get into town and to attend hospital appointments. He worries that traffic along the new route will cause the buses to run late.
He said: “We’ve got a perfectly good bus service – why change it? The traffic can be terrible out by Ashton Way, I worry that it will throw the timetable completely out the window.”
Pauline Grey, of Silbury Road, says that she also has concerns for disabled and elderly residents who live in Ashton Drive who will have to walk further for a bus.
Marilyn Woodland, a Trevanna Road resident and member of the Ashton Vale Together community group, says that she worries about how a double decker will be able to navigate the narrow roads when Bristol City play at home.
She said: “It’s bad enough as it is with a single decker. I bet no one from First has sat on a double decker and drove through these streets on a match day.
“I can see some sense in the changes but First is just not considering us in Ashton Vale.”
In a post shared on Facebook by Bedminster councillor Mark Bradshaw following the AVT meeting on August 20, Cllr Bradshaw said: “We are grateful to James Freeman for attending the AVT meeting to explain changes to the 24 bus.
“We have spoken to James about the issues being raised locally and the impact of no bus service along Ashton Drive. It seems a shuttle service may be an option and this was mentioned at the meeting.
“It will be important that First monitors the impact of the changes and are able to report back on what they can do to address community concerns. As councillors, we are committed to helping our constituents in make these concerns known to First and the council.”
Rob Pymm, commercial director for First West of England said: “The 24 has now reached the point where increasing customer numbers dictate that we switch over to double deckers. The problem, of course, is that at the very western end of the route there is a very low railway arch connecting Ashton Vale with the rest of the city.
“While primarily designed to allow for double deckers to operate the route, when the route becomes operational, it will provide a number of new opportunities for customers travelling to Ashton Gate Stadium, UWE Bower Ashton Campus, Ashton Court and businesses along South Liberty Lane.
“Clearly these changes present a problem for people in Ashton Vale. We have held a number of community engagement events and are responding to the concerns raised by residents. We have already reconsidered plans to introduce a loop around Silbury Road following feedback from local residents and we are now urgently working on a solution to improve access for people wanting to make local journeys.
“We have committed to keep in touch with local residents on the plans and hope to find a solution soon.”
Image: The new route which is due to come into effect from September 15. However, it will now terminate and begin at Langley Crescent and will no longer serve Ashton Drive and Silbury Road