Fury as First scuppers bus service improvements

Local councillors in Midsomer Norton have expressed their anger following news that action by First Bus has derailed plans for an improved service between Radstock, Midsomer Norton and Bristol. The bus company is facing accusations of using its near-monopoly position to squeeze-out other bus operators and prevent the planned service improvements from going ahead.

A new fast-bus running to Bristol four times a day via the A37 was due to start this month after B&NES Council agreed to subsidise the service, to be run by Wessex Connect. However, moves by First Bus to run a peak-time service in competition to the Wessex service have now scuppered these plans.

The competition for the peak-time morning service to Bristol has meant the off-peak day-time Wessex Connect services are no longer viable, leaving local residents with just one service a day in each direction once again.

Conservative councillors in Midsomer Norton, who have campaigned for many years for a better bus service to Bristol, have said they are “furious” that the action by First has prevented the improvements from going ahead. They have now written to the both the Traffic Commissioner and Competition Commission complaining at the monopolistic behaviour of First.

Cllr Chris Watt (Cons, Midsomer Norton Redfield) said:

“Residents in Midsomer Norton will be extremely disappointed that these bus service improvements have not gone ahead due to the actions of First Bus and are likely to be furious with the monopolistic way this company is acting.

“Along with fellow Conservative Councillors in Midsomer Norton, we have been campaigning for an improved direct bus service to Bristol for many years, so losing this opportunity is a bitter blow. By putting up a rival peak-time service, First have squeezed out the competition and torpedoed the plans for a more regular service to Bristol. Instead of four buses to Bristol a day with new operator Wessex Connect, we are left with just one a day from First.”

Cllr Barry Macrae (Cons, Midsomer Norton North) added:

“Myself and Midsomer Norton Councillors Shirley Steel, John Whittock and Chris Watt are writing to the Traffic Commissioner and Competition Commission complaining about these actions. First should not be allowed to get away with pushing out competition and preventing better services like this. We’re also going to keep on working with the Council’s transport Officers to see if there could still be any chance of tendering a more frequent day-time service.”