New times for 24 bus services are leaving us out on a limb - residents

September 27 2019
New times for 24 bus services are leaving us out on a limb - residents

Changes to the 24 bus have now come into force – but Ashton Vale residents are unsatisfied with the new service, reporting a series of issues.

On September 15, the single decker changed to a double decker and a 24A shuttle service was introduced to accommodate users of the Ashton Drive stops, which could no longer be served due to the low rail bridge.

As reported in last month’s South Bristol Voice, First’s initial plans to change the service, because of capacity issues, were met with contention.

However, following feedback from residents and bus users, First agreed to introduce a shuttle bus which would connect users of the Ashton Drive stops to the Robins stop, where they would catch the 24.

At an Ashton Vale Together (AVT) public meeting on September 17, which was attended by managing director of First West of England James Freeman, residents expressed their frustrations over the new changes.

Among the criticisms, residents complained that the shuttle service only runs from 7am until 7pm, Monday to Saturday, and on one occasion the bus was so late, they missed the last shuttle.

Outside of these hours, the 24 service follows the route along the A370 to reach Langley Crescent, as originally proposed.

There were also complaints about the accessibility of the buses for wheelchair users, with an electric wheelchair user struggling to fit through the mouth of the bus.

In response, Mr Freeman said that he would investigate the complaints and assured attendees of the meeting that First only deploys buses that are wheelchair friendly.

One resident said that the changes were a “massive cock-up” and said that she felt that Ashton Vale residents were being left out on a limb.

She said: “We have to catch a bus to catch a bus – it’s just not logical. We had a good service when it ran properly.”

The shuttle service had also broken down on two occasions and a member of the AVT group had to put up posters in the area informing residents of the new service changes – a job which the council is responsible for.

At the meeting, Mr Freeman thanked the residents for their feedback and said that First will try and deal with the issues raised “as competently as possible”.

He also reassured residents that the service will continue after Christmas – a concern which was being aired by bus users.

He said: “The new pattern of service is as yet just a couple of days old and we will all be watching closely to see how it works in practice as customers become familiar with them.

“The feedback received through these AVT meetings is incredibly helpful and we will continue to keep in touch.”

A spokesperson from AVT said: “James Freeman very kindly agreed to come to our meeting at very short notice to speak to residents and to listen to their concerns.

“The main concern of residents, many elderly and disabled was what it involves having to catch two buses when they previously had a perfectly good bus service before the change to a double decker.

“Also, that the shuttle bus is only 7am-7pm during the week and Saturdays but not on Sundays or bank holidays.

“They were also very concerned about having a long walk back home in the dark. There were also issues with electric wheelchairs having problems getting on and off the buses.

“AVT will continue to do their best to work with James to hopefully resolve any issues that residents have about our bus service in Ashton Vale.”