An agreement has been reached by Bristol City Council and new operator Wessex Bus to replace First’s 51 bus service which connects Whitchurch, Hengrove and Knowle to the city centre.
Mayor Marvin Rees and Cabinet Member for Transport, Cllr Mark Bradshaw, have worked alongside officers and local ward members to negotiate a replacement service with Wessex Bus to maintain vital public transport connections for South Bristol communities, particularly around Broadwalk.
The current 51 bus service is due to be withdrawn by First Bus on 4 September, but the new agreement should mean a seamless transition to the new service.
Bristol City Council has identified some one-off funding to enhance the proposal for the new 51 bus route, which is being submitted by Wessex to the Traffic Commissioner. The one-off funding has been identified from a number of sources within the transport service, but no other bus services will face reduced support as a result.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol said: “We were determined to do everything we could to restore and maintain essential transport connections, particularly to Broadwalk, so we are grateful to Wessex for working quickly with us and local councillors to come up with a suitable solution. There has understandably been a strong community reaction to the changed routes and axing of a vital community link.
"It is a priority for my administration to find ways of better connecting communities around Bristol, and with this action I am pleased that we can protect a significant number of people from becoming more isolated and disconnected by the withdrawal of the 51 bus."
Cllr Mark Bradshaw, Cabinet Member for Transport added: “The council is under considerable financial pressure to manage its resources dedicated to subsidising bus services. For that reason this is only a one-off funding package to get this much-needed replacement option off the ground for the next six months. We are pleased Wessex has given us assurance that they will run this service for at least 12 months and our financial support is designed to enable that to happen. We are concerned about the continued series of cuts or changes to bus routes with the council left to fill the gaps. This is definitely not a green light to other operators expecting the same. Any further subsidy would need to come at the expense of other supported bus services. ”
Wessex is due to register the new 51 service today (Friday 19 August) which will be subject to agreement by the Traffic Commissioner and the council is fully supporting this application. Subject to the registration being formalised the revised 51 route will run from 4 September to ensure there is no gap in the services for the community.
Sam Palmer, Commercial Manager at Wessex Bus said: "We are delighted to play a part in maintaining this service, which provides essential links for the community. Working with Bristol City Council and the ward councillors we are providing a service which we believe will help restore trust in local public transport. From day one we will be offering a range of lower fares using our £1, £2 and £3 pricing strategy. We have also promised that should Wessex hit the targets we have agreed with Bristol City Council, we will donate money to local community projects. Wessex is committed to providing reliable and cost effective public transport solutions to the residents of Bristol and we are pleased to add the 51 to our network of services."