by BBC LDRS team and Filtonvoice
“Things will undoubtedly go wrong” with the new West Link minibus services starting this month in Filton, according to the metro mayor. New details about how the minibus services launching across the West of England region were revealed in mid March, just over a fortnight before they start.
Passengers in Filton and other selected areas – see map – will be able to book a West Link minibus via phone, app or a website, to take them from more remote areas to major transport routes.
The services will run 30 bright green minibuses, as part of a £3-million new scheme known as ‘demand responsive transport’.
The new services are the largest of its kind in the country, having only been run before on a much smaller scale. Dan Norris, the West of England metro mayor, pictured below, admitted that there would be teething problems as the new services are rolled out over the summer.
Mr Norris said: “Stop-to-stop tailor-made travel is new for everyone. I am really pleased to see the first West Link bus, which is going into service from April and rolling out thereafter. I hope West Links become a familiar and welcome sight across our region. We will be adding more and more until we reach our first milestone of 30 full-time minibuses planned for later in the year.
“This is a major investment for a key project. And it’s new to us all, so it certainly won’t be plain sailing. Undoubtedly things will go wrong, but we’re ready to learn as we go along. But I’m determined we get on and try something different, because the old solutions to our transport problems are not up to the challenges of the modern world post-pandemic.
“For me, politics is the art of the possible, delivering both for passengers of today as well as tomorrow. None of this will be easy, or quick, but I’m hugely proud to have secured this major multi-million-pound funding that gives us a unique opportunity to shape our transport future for the better.”
West Link minibuses will include comfortable seats with headrests, wheelchair access, spaces for prams or buggies, and spaces for folding bikes. Eventually, the app and booking phone service will be able to advise passengers about major public transport route timetables.
The services will cover parts of North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Bristol and North Somerset, which are currently poorly served by public transport. Many of these places will also soon see traditional subsidised bus routes scrapped, as councils decided not to increase the transport levy for these routes in line with inflation.
Two companies will operate the minibuses, Via and WeDRT.
Passengers will be able to book a seat on a minibus 24 hours in advance, choosing their pick-up and drop-off points. They will be able to pay through the app, or by card over the phone, or in cash with the driver.
Single fares will cost £2 for adults and £1 for children, for any length of journey. Concessionary and older person’s bus passess will be accepted. Initially the services will run Monday to Saturday from 7am to 7pm. But in future this will be expanded to 5.30am to 9.30pm Monday to Saturday, and 9am to 6pm on Sundays. Fares might change in future.
Mr Norris added: “As well as passengers who are willing to try something new, West Link will need more minibus drivers. The national and local shortage of drivers remains a major hurdle. While we are starting to see progress locally, there is still a significant way to go. If you’re wondering about a career change, do get in touch to find out more.
“I’m thrilled that here in the West of England, we’re aiming high and starting to roll out what will become the biggest scheme of its kind in the country. Let’s all pull together and make it the best scheme in the country too. I know we can. So when the time comes, please do join me on West Link. More news will follow soon.”