Bus to hospital faces cut as subsidy is axed

A BUS service linking Staple Hill to Southmead Hospital, Kingswood and Keynsham is facing cuts from April.

The 17 is one of 42 subsidised services to see its funding cut following a meeting of the West of England combined authority on January 18, as the region’s political leaders blamed each other and the government for the cuts.

Most of the buses on the 17 route are run on a commercial basis and operator First has not announced any plans to cut them.

However, evening services after 9pm on Monday to Friday, and later Saturday services after 8pm are set to lose their funding as a result of the vote.

A spokesperson for First West of England said: “Service 17 is largely a commercially-operated service between Southmead and Kingswood, with only a small number of late evening journeys with very low passenger numbers being operated on a tendered basis.

“It is these journeys that will no longer operate from April 2 as the Combined Authority has decided not to continue funding them. We will continue to operate the rest of the service.” 

First was due to announce changes to its timetabled commercial services, which will also come into force in April, at the end of February, but had not confirmed any as the Voice went to press. 

January’s WECA meeting saw West of England mayor Dan Norris blame the leaders of Bristol, South Gloucestershire and B&NES councils for not paying enough towards supported services, with this year’s increase to their transport levy less than inflation, while council leaders accused WECA of wasting money.

Councils are seeking to provide some extra funding to extend some subsidised services that face cuts – particularly some school bus services which will be extended to the end of the school year.

Mr Norris said: “At the moment we have about £20 a head per year for our transport levy, and that compares to the ones at the top of the combined authorities in other parts of the country, that are £60 a head.”