Hospital bus link under threat

April 28 2021

PATIENTS and staff travelling to Southmead hospital from Kingswood and Hanham face losing their only remaining bus route.

The future of the number 17 bus could be at risk if costs for running the route go up.

The current supported bus service contract for the Southmead to Keynsham service is due to end on 28th August this year. At the moment it is only certain to be maintained if tender costs remain the same.

Kingswood Ward councillor Andrea Reid wrote an open letter to Stephen Reade, South Gloucestershire council cabinet member for Planning, Transport and Strategic Environment. He also sits on the transport board for the West of England Combined Authority, which has responsibilities for the region’s transport system.

Cllr Reid wrote: “We would like to highlight how vital the number 17 bus is.

“It is the only bus on this side of South Gloucestershire that runs to Southmead hospital, and is therefore an essential bus service providing residents with access to medical treatment.

“It is the only bus that runs to Cossham hospital. Over the last couple of years we have seen a reduction of essential routes. For example, in 2019 we lost the bus route 19, which also served Southmead hospital.”

She included her own experience of insufficient bus services making it difficult to get to Yate minor injuries unit, then to Bristol Children’s Hospital, when her son was injured.

She said: “This is a nightmare scenario for those with no transport of their own, or family/friends to drive them.

“Taxi journeys of this distance are unaffordable for many families at the best of times, but when so many are struggling financially as a result of the pandemic this will be even more the case.”

Cllr Reid raised concerns that people would call ambulances if buses weren’t available and that this would have a knock-on effect on all patients.

Cllr Reid later posted that Cllr Reade had responded: “As you may know the bus service is controlled via WECA, SGC provide funding for some of the supported services.Commercial services are the remit of the bus companies and do not need to have regard for local authority voices.In my role on the WECA Transport board I champion all services that provide a vital service. As you know the funding is not limitless and WECA periodically go through the retendering process.

“I will push in my role for the service to be kept. I have emailed WECA officers to be kept fully up to date with the tender process.”