Photo: Nospa
Photo: Nospa

By Danielle Scregg

A recent deal between George Ferguson and First bus company allowed an increase in spending to £60,000 which will help pay for night buses to run six days a week, instead of two, until 3am.

The buses will begin operating on 24th March 2013 on services 40, 43, 44, 48, 54, 75 and 90.

Service 75, which runs between Hengrove and Cribbs Causeway, will operate 24 hours a day on an hourly basis in both directions.

Mr Ferguson had proposed cutting £40,000 of subsidies in order to make budget savings, but provisions made by an energy-saving street lighting scheme allowed the cuts to be withdrawn. Fears from critics claiming that the cuts would damage the city’s night-time economy and could even increase crime in the city centre had also prevented the cuts going ahead.

Talking about the new service, Marc Reddy, Regional Commercial and Business Growth Director for First in the South West and Wales, said

At the end of last year we began operating late night journeys on Service 73 (Bristol City Centre Bristol Parkway Station via Gloucester Road and Filton Avenue) on a commercial basis and these have proved popular.”

As a result of this and knowing that the Council was considering its night bus commitments, we put forward a proposal which suggested that we could run the journeys for them, if they were willing to help support them initially while they get off the ground. They have agreed and plans are now in place to roll this out from the end of March.

This is good news for Bristol. It means the city will have a much more comprehensive Night Bus service. Our plans to move Service 75 to be a truly 24 hour operation will, we expect, also be welcomed, especially by those who need to travel either for work or leisure in the small hours of the morning.

Mayor George Ferguson said: “First’s proposal points the Night Bus firmly in the direction it should be traveling, and I’m happy to support its route towards commercial viability. “A major city with a late-night culture as vibrant as Bristol’s must have a night bus service. And it easily has the potential to run as a self-funding private business. It just needs to be bigger, bolder and braver.” However, due to the reputation of the old night buses not arriving on time and being less economical than a shared taxi, some students at UWE do not feel they would use the services that much.

Student Josh Bates has had poor experiences, he said: “Last time I checked, Wessex ran the night service which was a bad service in my experience. They never turned up at specific times or at all.

“If people are relying on a bus service as opposed to getting a taxi at night they need to guarantee it’s going to turn up on time.

“Hopefully, now that First are running the service they will do a better job than Wessex did. Unless I wasn’t in a big group I wouldn’t use the bus as I imagine the costs would be similar to a taxi.”

Emily Muddeman, another student studying at UWE said “I think it’s a really good idea. It does depend on prices though, as for £5.50/£6 each we can get a return in a taxi which will pick us up and drop us home from our house. It does not involve any waiting around at a cold bus stop at the beginning or end of a night out. If a return bus was say £4 anyway, I would rather just pay the extra couple of pounds, but if it was a lot cheaper I would definitely use it.”

With increased late night bus routes, Mr Ferguson thinks that Bristol’s night life will adapt and flourish, saying: “Better late night connections make the city a more attractive place for more late night activity which brings more users to the night buses.”