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Council steps in to stop bus firm stranding passengers

By This is Somerset  |  Posted: April 04, 2009

Buses similar to this one would not have been seen in Wrington after May but thankfully North Somerset Council has stepped in to stop passengers being stranded.

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NORTH Somerset Council is stepping in to stop passengers being left stranded when First Bus axes two villages-only services.

The Mercury reported last week how a First Bus spokesman blamed the "difficult economic climate" for the decision to stop running the 121 service from Weston to Bristol, which passes through Wrington, Lower Langford and Churchill.

A statement on the company website said: "We understand that, regrettably, some people will be inconvenienced by these changes. However, we feel that it is necessary to take these steps to ensure the local bus network remains sustainable."

The move angered North Somerset councillors, who said they weren't consulted by First Bus, but now the authority has stepped into to ensure the 121 keeps running as well as a number of other services in the area.

Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, the deputy leader and executive member for transport, said: "We received a flood of complaints after First's decision.

"Most criticised the company for its lack of consultation and complete lack of customer care or social responsibility, particularly highlighting the service 121, which links a number of villages with Weston and Bristol.

"We have been working to replace as many of these services as we can in areas that would otherwise be left without a bus route."

Although there will be some timetable changes, the council has been able to find funding to save a number of services.

But those services which haven't been saved include the X24 from Portishead to Clevedon and the 600 from Yatton to Cribb's Causeway.

Mr Ap Rees said: "While I am disappointed that available funding makes it impossible to replace every service dropped by First, we have attempted to minimise the impact by slightly modifying some services to plug gaps and replacing others.

"I am particularly delighted that we have been able to find a way to continue the services on the 121 rural route and that we have new operators coming on board to challenge the previous First monopoly.

"Whilst that operator will retain the 121 contract, because its bid was some £20,000 below the nearest competitor, it has lost the weekend service and services in the town."

From May 10, the 121 will operate the current timetable until the 5.42pm from Bristol.

The service will be run by First during the week and Bakers Coaches on Sundays.

Full details will be published on www.n-somerset.gov.uk/ buschanges.

Pocket timetable leaflets will be produced and information will be available by calling Traveline on 01934 426426.

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