Is MetroBus running into trouble?

September 02 2016

PUBLIC money may have to subsidise services on Bristol’s £200 million MetroBus network, the councils behind it have admitted.

PUBLIC money may have to subsidise services on Bristol’s £200 million MetroBus network, the councils behind it have admitted.

The aim was for the rapid transport system, which is due to open next year, to be an entirely commerial service but speculation is growing that operators are unwilling to take it one without financial support.

The uncertainty comes as people in the Fishponds area wait to see the full impact of the closure of Stoke Lane to northbound traffic for months while MetroBus works are carried out.

Since the closure in June, students have not been the university and many commuters have been on holiday. Drivers are expecting long delays this month and bus operator First is changing its timetables to allow for this.

The West of England Partnership said last week that negotiations were continuing to find an operator for MetroBus services and were expected to be concluded in three to four weeks.

It said in a statement: “We have always been clear, the aim is that the MetroBus services are run entirely on a commercial basis via a quality partnership scheme that sets minimum standards for frequencies, quality of vehicles and maximum fares, supported by a voluntary partnership agreement with one or more operator.

‘Of course should negotiations not be successful we have a range of back up plans which could include formal contracts to run all or some services on a contracted basis which might require the use of public money following a competitive procurement process, but this would depend on the situation when negotiations conclude.”

MetroBus will provide an express bus service on 31 miles (50km) of segregated bus-ways and bus lanes. There are   three routes: Ashton Vale to Temple Meads, Bristol North Fringe to Hengrove via the city centre and the South Bristol link between the A370 Long Ashton bypass and Hengrove Park.

Its aim is to provide faster and more reliable journey times and the intention is for it to carry 20,000 passengers a day.

At the top of the M32, a bus-only junction is being created. Services will split at Frenchay, with some going to Cribbs Causeway and some to Emersons Green. 

Work to create the bus lanes  has meant major road works on the A4174 ring road and the motorway as well as changing the landscape at Stoke Park.