Threat to hospital bus link lifted
BUSES to Southmead Hospital will keep running following a campaign by the community.
As reported in Kingswood Voice in May, the No 17 bus service was at risk of closing at the end of this month if running costs went up.
Now the West of England Combined Authority (Weca), which subsidises the part of the route from Kingswood to Keynsham, has announced it will continue to do so. Bus company First will continue running the route.
However, most journeys from Keynsham, Longwell Green and Hanham towards Southmead will require passengers to change at Kingswood, with a 10 minute wait between buses. Return journeys will run straight through.
Kingswood ward councillor Andrea Reid, Labour, wrote an open letter raising concerns that the loss of the only bus to Southmead and Cossham hospitals would be a “nightmare scenario” for residents without transport.
Her letter to Councillor Stephen Reade, who sits on the transport board for Weca, said people might resort to calling ambulances if there was no other way to get to the hospitals. She also organised a petition against the loss of the No 17.
In response to the service being rescued, the Labour councillor wrote on her Facebook page: “I hope that common sense intervenes at the Weca Transport Board and that the routes are BOTH made single bus journeys.
“In the meantime [I hope] they swap the agreement so that the single bus journey is headed towards Southmead Hospital, enabling those with injuries or illness to avoid changing buses en route to treatment.”
Kingswood’s Conservative MP Chris Skidmore said: “I’m delighted with this news from Weca as it has been a real cross-community campaign to protect our local bus services that are so important for so many local people.
“Whilst this is a good first step, I will continue to press Weca to address the concerns of my constituents travelling from the Longwell Green direction who will still need to interchange at Kingswood for onward travel to Southmead for most journeys.
“If these residents can benefit from a continuous service coming back from Southmead, why do they need to change on their way there? I want to see the maximum possible comfort and ease of my constituents, which is why we need a single service travelling along the full route length in both directions.”
Weca Mayor Dan Norris, Labour, said: “I’m delighted it has been possible to save the No 17 bus.
“Cllr Andrea Reid has fought a really impactful campaign and led on this with her excellent petition. This has helped greatly in my conversations with First and others as I’ve stressed the fundamental importance of this key service to many communities.
“This shows the importance of a good local councillor making a strong case and I’d like to thank Cllr Andrea Reid for showing strong leadership. But more than this, this is a victory for local people. I know there remain concerns about wait times for a bus connection. I’m hoping in future I can do something about this too.
“I will be using the No 17 bus service as an example of why the West of England needs and deserves more money from central government. Levelling up isn’t just a north and south thing, and that is why I will be pushing for government money so that we don’t keep missing out.”
Number 17 bus route
The number 17 full route runs about once an hour Tuesday to Saturday currently. Timetables are being reviewed for the start of September.
Kingswood [from September passengers travelling towards Southmead will change here with 10 min wait]