Threatened bus service safe for 8 years

The future of a threatened bus service in Bath has been secured for the next eight years following the agreement of a new contract between B&NES Council and bus operator Wessex Connect this week.

The 20A and C bus service, which runs a circular route serving many areas of Bath including Weston, Twerton, Widcombe and Bath University, was nearly lost last year when First Bus pulled out from running the service. After campaigning by local councillors and residents throughout the city, the council stepped in with an emergency temporary contract with new operator Wessex Connect to keep the service going.

A new long-term contract has now been agreed with Wessex Connect which will see the operator running the 20A and C service for the next eight years with a subsidy from the council. Bus users will also see improvements to the evening service, with a new 7pm departure added to the route on weekdays from the bus station to the RUH via Bath University, with new buses also in the pipeline.

Councillor Charles Gerrish, B&NES Conservative Cabinet Member in charge of transport, said:

“Agreeing this long-term contract with Wessex Connect to run the 20A and C route means securing the future of this vital bus service for all those residents who rely upon it. As well as securing the continuation of this service, new ‘low floor’ buses will be introduced on the route in the coming years which are easier for disabled passengers to access.”

The council secured funding towards new buses on the route from a developer agreement with Sainsbury’s when it was granted planning permission for a new store in Odd Down earlier this year.

Councillor Brook Whelan (Cons, Widcombe) was one of the councillors who campaigned for the service to be saved. Cllr Whelan commented:

“The signing of a new contract for this vital bus service is great news for all those who campaigned for it to be saved last year. The fact we will see new buses introduced on the route represents a complete turn-around from the situation last year when we were worried that the service was to be axed entirely. Conservative councillors have been arguing for many years now that increased competition between bus operators in Bath could help improve standards, so the fact Wessex Connect now has this long-term commitment to the city is very welcome.”