Friday 28 January 2022

The Sorry Tale Of Ashton Vale (4)

 If At First You Don't Succeed ...

To an outside observer, it would seem that First's cunning plan to gert double decks on route 24 was always either "courageous" or even "ill advised". It would have been costly in resource and costly in bad PR as the "lady in pink" and her chums vented their spleen against First Bus for taking away their preferred and useful route via Ashton Drive, the shops and The Robins.

Initial route branding was hardly dynamic!

So Try Again
Despite the arrival of bright green buses, the long-way-round route was both unpopular and unsatisfactory. So the answer was to cut it back.
Henceforth Monday to Saturday daytimes, the 24 would only run to the end of Ashton Drive. Here is one doing it!
There would be a 15 minute frequency shuttle bus ...
... from outside the Robins to the Langley Drive terminus ...
Note the 24 hour clock consistency! Outwith these hours (as Mrs fbb would say!) the 24 would remain on its rambling route into Ashton Vale by the back way.
But, at least, "forgotten" Ashton Vale would get a bus every 30 minutes evening, early mornings and all day Sundays.
Needless to say, the shuttle bus did not always connect with an oft-delayed 24 and most buses ran empty - or very nearly so - during the day,

In Passing, What Is "The Robins"?
Well it is the nickname of Bristol City footy club (of Ashton Gate Stadium fame) ...
... and the pub (for a pub it was) mirrored both name and logo.
It offered the usual range of pub entertainment and pub food - its pizzas were, apparently, the talk of the estate.
Alas, and following the trend for small suburban pubs, it is now The Robins coffee shop.
It is now only open from 9 till 3, so unlikely to assuage the thirst of our protesting lady in pink who wanted to "go out" to the misspelt "Robbins" of an evening. But the 24a does stop right outside.

Clearly the 24/24a combo has been as big a disaster as the previous long-way-round 24, equally unpopular and equally costly to provide. So ...

Try, Try Again!
First have come up with yet another idea - one which has alienated the "forgotten" residents of the "forgotten" Ashton Vale Estate even more.

From Sunday 30th January, the 24 runs only to the end of Ashton Drive all the time. There are no "long-way-round" evening or Sunday excursions.
The daytime frequency remains at every 15 minutes but, as yet another daft economy measure, evening buses will now run at a totally un-memorable every 45 instead of every 30. Hey-ho, more passengers lost!
Sunday buses remain every 30.

So what has happened to the 24a shuttle.

It too has gone, replaced, say First Bus enthusiastically, by a through bus from Ashton Vale into City, which, say First Bus equally enthusiastically, is exactly what the revolting residents raucously required!

Yeah, right!
For much of the time the new 23 runs "about every hour" according to First, but actually every 65 minutes. How forgettable is that? And why, you may ask ...
... does it not come and go via Duckmoor Road as the 24 still does. Should Aunt Aggie of Ducknoor Road wish to visit young Gavin on the Ashton Vale Estate - well she can't; unless she is clever enough to catch a 24 which sort-of connects with a 23 at The Robins. Best of luck with that Aggie!

But it gets worse. The 23 only runs from 0700 to 1900, and, with no "long-way-round" 24s, the "forgotten" estate has no early morning, evening or Sunday service at all.

Although badly explained by those videos from Bristol Live and the local paper, we can now see why the protest was so vociferous.

And Try Again?
Surely First could do a bit better for the "forgotten" ones? fbb is no expert in Bristol's running times, but reckons the Sunday and evening service could be tweaked to run one single deck trip every hour into the estate. There looks to be about a 20 minute "layover" time on each round trip!

Would Bristol City help with a de minimis tender (or whatever the latest variety thereof might be)?

Or is all of this just part of the posturing in preparation for the big funding changes from April 1st?

You do wonder.

And. in case you did wonder; the M2 Long Ashton Park and Ride does NOT run evenings and Sundays, so nothing there to help the furious forgotten folk!

Building Buses Back Better takes another leap, not forwards,  but further into the dark and dismal downward dive of declining passenger numbers and declining viability.

Well done First Bus!

 Next Variety blog : Saturday 29th January 


  1. Has FBB been out after dark nowadays. There are no passengers the world has moved on since the days of ballroom dancing and watching a film was only done at the cinema. As for frequencies that people cannot remember, again outdated twaddle. Paying passengers mostly use modern technology it only people over a certain age that don't.

  2. If there werre serious numbers of passengers wishing to travel, then I'm sure First Bristol would've provided a decent service.
    People will always complain when a service is cancelled, but will they use it when it's there?? Regrettably, often not!!
    And, to echo the previous commenter . . . outside the Birmingham's and the Leeds', bus usage after dark simply isn't there any more. We must get used to running buses when plenty of passengers use them, and not running around empty streets at 2200, or through empty lanes to dark villages, just because we used to.

  3. I'm not sure what FBB thinks the alternative would have been to converting the 24 to deckers. Yes the vehicles are slightly more expensive to run than single decks, but one presumes the alternative was an increase in frequency which would need more vehicles and more drivers.
    Untimately you are correct though in that the West of England Combined Authority (I think they are now the LTA rather than the city council) should be talking to First or creating their own tendered service - but they ain't got the money.