By Sam Rkaina, Local Government Reporter
Calls are being made to boycott the new park-and-ride service in Brislington after ongoing complaints from frustrated passengers.
So far 330 people have signed a petition against the current performance on the 904, claiming it has been running late and is overcrowded.
The problems have developed since London-based transport operator CT Plus took over from First Bus last month.
The changes were made as part of a £2-million savings plan by Bristol City Council, which needs to cut the amount of money it spends on supporting public transport. The council says it recognises there have been problems and will be making some changes to improve matters.
In the next few weeks the bus drivers will stop checking tickets, so when a bus pulls up all three doors will open and people will be able to board immediately rather than wait.
BT worker John Pagett set up the petition due to his frustration with a bus that he had been happy to use for the last three months. He’s particularly concerned the cost of the service is due to go up in April, despite an apparent drop in performance.
Mr Pagett said: “They say 100 people can stand – that’s a joke. You can’t breathe at the best of times and it’s worse when we had the weather like last week. We were not informed that the service would be taken over by CT Plus. I was quite shocked. We think we should get the service run by First.”
Last week Mr Pagett was joined by the city council’s executive member for transport Tim Kent, so he could experience the 904 for himself.
Mr Pagett said: “His answers were unsatisfactory. He was surprised we still used the antiquated ticketing system. He said the cost of the service would be increased next year. I asked if there was any way this can be put on hold, but he said no A 16 per cent increase next year in a service that isn’t working seems a little far-fetched.”
Most of the people who have signed the petition against the services included comments about how unhappy they are with it.
Among them are Bradley Ireland of Keynsham, who said: “It is shocking, especially in the morning. You have to get there earlier and earlier just to make sure you get to work on time. Also they are too overcrowded with the fact more people have to stand than sit.”
Doreen Russell from Bristol said: “This has become an absolutely disgraceful service. It’s now taking me more than an hour to get home. Having to wait at least 35 minutes for this disgraceful service is just not good enough.”
And Amie Brace of Paulton said: “I have been using the park and ride for eight years and this is the worst it’s ever been. I’ve allowed some time for the initial teething problems but this has gone on long enough now.”
CT Plus has issued a lengthy statement setting out some of the reasons for the recent issues.
It said it was combination of two sets of road works in the area – one by Wessex Water, the other by Bristol City Council – and a number of accidents that had led to some delays.
It asked customers to bring any concerns they have to their attention. New real time information signs would soon be provided, along with updates on Twitter and Facebook.
Mr Kent told the Post last month a smart-card ticketing system would be introduced that will cut down on queuing. He said: “I understand there have been some very disruptive days but some days have gone very smoothly. What we want to do in the next three to four months is make those the norm, so the bus is no more than a ten-minute wait.
“If people boycott it that won’t help us but that is their choice.
“Some of the roadworks have already been removed and I think that’s why it’s more reliable in the morning. There are still problems at 5pm, and we’re exploring why that is with CT Plus. The problem is smaller delays snowball into larger delays later in the day.
“To put an additional bus on would cost £125,000 a year, and we can’t afford that. People have said to us the park and ride should be a premium service, but they don’t pay a premium fare.”