In common with bus services across the country, passenger numbers on some local routes have failed to recover quickly enough following the pandemic. Central government Covid-19 relief funding will also be withdrawn later this year.
The services are expected to be removed in October and would leave some communities without bus services, cutting links to shops, employment, hospitals, schools and colleges.
The three services in question are:
- X2 (Yatton to Bristol).
- X5 (Weston-super-Mare to Bristol, serving Clevedon and Portishead).
- 126 (Weston-super-Mare to Wells, serving Locking, Banwell, Sandford and Winscombe).
The council recently announced that significant investment will be made in bus services over the next three years thanks to a successful bid for funding from the Department for Transport (DfT), made in partnership with the West of England Combined Authority. Work will include the delivery of the council’s Bus Service Improvement Plan. However, the council has been told that the DfT funding can’t be used to support services that are commercially unsustainable, such as the X2, X5 and 126.
The council is warning that it's unlikely to be able to arrange a solution where every service under threat is saved and difficult decisions will have to be made.
Councillor Steve Hogg, North Somerset Council’s executive member with responsibility for transport and highways, said: “Buses play a vital role serving the communities of North Somerset. They help residents go to work, shop and access vital services such as schools, colleges and health services. They're also key to our response to the climate emergency.
“Commercial bus companies operate the vast majority of bus routes in North Somerset and decide where and how often these run. We recognise the challenges they face – there is a shortage of drivers and usage hasn’t yet returned to levels seen before the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We haven’t yet received the funding to deliver our Bus Service Improvement Plan and unfortunately the government will not allow us to use this funding to replace routes like-for-like. Without additional government funding, we can’t afford to replace current routes. We are committed to lobbying government and working with partners, communities and bus operators to explore every avenue to maintain vital services wherever possible.
“The Government needs to act now – financial support to bus companies must continue until passenger numbers are closer to pre-pandemic levels. Across North Somerset, we’ve seen around 75 per cent of passengers return to services, underlining just how critical these buses are to our communities.”
First intends to introduce their changes in North Somerset on Sunday 9 October 2022.