Norton-Radstock bus service campaign – Criticism of First Bus mounts while alternative operators to be investigated

Lack of action by First Bus on investigating a more frequent direct service between the Norton – Radstock area and Bristol is attracting increasing criticism from local Conservative Councillors.

Midsomer Norton Councillors Barry Macrae, John Whittock, Shirley Steel and Chris Watt tabled a question on the subject at a recent meeting of the West of England Partnership’s Joint Transport Committee, which comprises of the former Avon Councils. The committee was asked what work is being undertaken to put pressure on First Bus to deliver service improvements to the Norton-Radstock area from Bristol to go alongside the infrastructure improvements currently taking place.

However, the reply from the Joint Transport Committee reveals that the West of England Partnership does not expect First to further investigate a more frequent Norton-Radstock to Bristol service. While negotiations on reaching an agreement with First are to start soon, the Joint Transport Committee stated that ‘First have indicated that they do not believe they can make a business case for a new service along this corridor’.

Local Conservative Councillors have expressed dismay at this response and have welcomed moves by the council to investigate alternative operators for an hourly direct bus service to Bristol. B&NES Conservative Cabinet Member in charge of transport, Cllr Charles Gerrish, recently stated that he has instructed officers to invite tenders from bus operators for such a service as part of the next tendering round later this year.

Councillor Barry Macrae (Con, Midsomer Norton North) said:

“It is completely unacceptable that First Bus do not appear to have even properly investigated a more frequent direct service to Bristol. A lot of money is currently being invested on new bus stops, ‘real-time’ information displays and bus priority measures, so it is reasonable that we expect First deliver the timetable improvements we sorely need.” 

Fellow Conservative Councillor Chris Watt (Midsomer Norton Redfield) added:

“While we are pleased the West of England Partnership will attempt to put pressure on First, it is extremely disappointing to hear that First has already indicated it is not willing to look into an hourly Bristol to Norton-Radstock service.

“The focus should now move onto looking at what other options are available to improve bus services to our area.”