Im­prove­ments make lit­tle change to bus ser­vices for uni stu­dents

Bath Chronicle - - NEWS - Amanda Cameron Se­nior re­porter @Aman­das­cameron | 01225 322204 amanda.cameron@reach­

Pas­sen­gers fed-up with Bath’s univer­sity bus ser­vices say the oper­a­tor’s ef­forts to im­prove mat­ters have made “neg­li­gi­ble” dif­fer­ence. First Bus an­nounced it had laid on ex­tra buses and driv­ers as a tem­po­rary stop-gap af­ter Unibus pas­sen­gers com­plained of buses ar­riv­ing late or driv­ing past full last week. But stu­dents from the Univer­sity of Bath have re­ported on­go­ing prob­lems with U1 and U2 ser­vices since the bus com­pany in­tro­duced the emer­gency mea­sures on Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 2. A Face­book page set up by the univer­sity’s stu­dent union to col­lect feed­back con­tains a litany of com­plaints about buses be­ing late, not turn­ing up, not pick­ing up pas­sen­gers, “not in ser­vice”, sit­ting empty for want of a driver, and break­ing down. One stu­dent de­scribed the bus sit­u­a­tion as “ter­ri­ble” while an­other said it had “kind of ru­ined” his first week of classes at univer­sity. Chris Han­son, First’s head of op­er­a­tions, has of­fered his “un­re­served apolo­gies” and re­as­sured cus­tomers the com­pany is do­ing “ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble” to deal with “un­prece­dented vol­umes of pas­sen­gers”. The U1 and U2 routes have 13 ex­tra buses each and more will be added, but the so­lu­tion is not “straight­for­ward” and “will take ef­fort to get right”, he warned. Coun­cil­lor Mark Shelford, the lo­cal au­thor­ity’s cab­i­net mem­ber for trans­port, has wel­comed First Bus’s at­tempts to meet de­mand but in­vited other com­mer­cial bus op­er­a­tors to seize the op­por­tu­nity if “one bus oper­a­tor is un­able to do this”. “We need a re­li­able and sus­tain­able net­work of com­mer­cial bus ser­vices,” he said. Stu­dents com­plained of hav­ing to wait over an hour and 20 min­utes and be­ing left stranded, while oth­ers said Mon­day’s queues for the U1 in Corn Street were even worse than last week’s. One said he waited 40 min­utes and watched as three full buses and two empty ones drove past - be­fore an “over­crowded” bus stopped to pick up around 10 peo­ple of the “prob­a­bly 70+ per­son” queue. Oth­ers com­plained they were told to get off the bus at Avon Street be­cause the driver had fin­ished his shift, and the bus sat empty be­cause no other driv­ers were avail­able. Still other stu­dents com­plained that they waited for more than half an hour to catch a U2 home from univer­sity last week but watched as up to a dozen U1 buses came and went. Nu­mer­ous stu­dents com­plained about their U1 bus break­ing down on Bath­wick Hill or be­ing too weak to climb it. Jay Hale said she had to walk up the hill af­ter the U1 she was on broke down less than half way up. First West of Eng­land said it had dou­bled ca­pac­ity on the U2 ser­vice and was us­ing ex­tra driv­ers and buses to pro­vide “in­terim relief” on the U1 ser­vice. Mr Han­son added: “Work­ing with ex­ter­nal com­pa­nies and driv­ers how­ever is not as straight­for­ward as it sounds, and will take ef­fort to get right, but we are do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to get to this point.”

Pic­ture: Ar­tur Les­niak

Stu­dents wait for the U1 bus in Corn Street on Mon­day morn­ing as a coach hired by First Bus tries to help plug the gap in univer­sity bus ser­vices

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