Final First bus fares consultation held
THE last of 15 consultations into a review of Bristol's bus fares has been held.
Just two people attended last night's 90-minute drop-in session in St Werburgh's, originally planned to allow people from black and minority ethnic communities to have their say.
Operator First Bus's consultation was prompted by an organised protest campaign.
Surveys had been translated into Bengali, Urdu, Punjabi and Somali with help from Zaheer Shabir, from race relations group Building the Bridge, but no-one from those communities attended the session.
Despite the low turnout at last night's event First has received more than 6,500 replies to the fare consultation questionnaire since it was launched at Easter. Most of the events have been held at shopping centres and First has also held road-show events at Bristol Bus Station, Lockleaze Festival and both Southmead and Frenchay Hospitals.
A special event for councillors from the Bristol and its three neighbouring authorities was held in May, while earlier this month an event was held in Westminster for local MPs.
Fare consultation questionnaires have also been distributed through libraries, council one-stop-shops, tourist information centres, advice centres, community centres, some neighbourhood forum meetings, and First's own travel shops in Bristol, Bath and Weston-super-Mare.
The questionnaire has also been available online.
One resident and one ward councillor turned up to yesterday's event.
Jane Day, 66, who lives in Ashley Road, Montpelier, has been completely reliant on buses for the past few weeks after her car was set on fire by arsonists near Yate.
She said: "I attended this event in the hope that some of my concerns would be listened to.
"There is no Sunday service for the number 25 and during the week we've got two buses, the numbers 25 and five, that come along at the same time.
"Another problem is that only some buses have disabled access but there's no way of knowing when one of those will come along.
"I was expecting more people to turn up - the only reason I knew about this event was because my local councillor put it on his Facebook page."
Councillor Rob Telford (Green, Ashley) was the other attendee.
He said: "I wanted to find answers to some of the issues I've had raised to me by residents - mainly surrounding pricing and reliability.
"I have been told that First is putting in measures to improve services, but I believe we are never going to get a great service in a privately-run form."
First Bus spokeswoman Karen Baxter said she was not discouraged by the low turnout and said the translated surveys would be left at St Werburgh's Community Centre for people to fill in.
"We were encouraged to hold a meeting here to engage with a community that doesn't always get a voice," she said.
"All of this information is available online, so maybe people decided they would rather be outside on the hottest day of year than talk about buses."
The returned questionnaires are being processed by MVA, an independent team of transport consultants that First has hired to work on the fare review.
Once the consultation closes on June 29, all the data collected will be collated and reviewed.
MVA will then present its findings to First and decisions regarding the next steps will be made.
First expects to be able to implement the necessary changes to its fare structure in Bristol in the autumn.
For more details see www.firstgroup.com/afarehearingforbristol