A CAMPAIGN for a direct bus to the new Southmead Hospital has seen an overwhelming response from concerned patients.

Hundreds of local residents have signed their names to a petition launched by Thornbury and Yate MP Steve Webb which calls for a direct bus service to the region’s acute hospital from the Yate and Chipping Sodbury area.

The new hospital is due to open in 2014 and will coincide with the downgrading of Frenchay Hospital, which is much closer for people from the Yate area to travel to.

The campaign was launched when it was revealed there was no direct route from Yate to Southmead with bus passengers needing to change service and wait for an up to an hour for their connecting bus.

Public money allocated from the development of the £430million new hospital has been given to Bristol City Council and is not earmarked to be spent on public transport improvements in South Gloucestershire.

More than 900 petition signatures have been gathered at local GP surgeries, via an online website and by campaigners going from door-to-door.  

Mr Webb said: "I have been overwhelmed by the positive response to this campaign.  

"I was outraged when I heard that people would have to take four buses to do a round trip to Southmead, and it is clear that local residents feel the same way."

He added: "It is vital that some of the money that has been set aside for public transport improvements associated with the new hospital is spent on providing a decent direct bus service from our area."

South Gloucestershire Council had originally intended to finalise its plans for bus services to Southmead at a July committee meeting. However, the decision has been postponed until September to allow time for new options to be costed and considered.

A South Gloucestershire Council spokesman said the council recognised the concerns in the Yate community about transportation to Southmead Hospital.

"We are working with the North Bristol NHS Trust and Bristol City Council to identify potential options for buses to serve the site," said the council spokesman. "We have listened to comments put forward by members and Yate Town Council and have now investigated various options for providing direct services between Yate and Southmead."

The county council will report its findings at the authority’s planning, transport and strategic environment committee on Wednesday, September 4 (3pm) at the council offices in Thornbury, when the petition is also expected to be handed over.   

Added Mr Webb: "I will make sure that the petition signatures and online signatures of hundreds of local residents have been forwarded to the council ahead of this crucial meeting.  

"It is quite clear that the previous plans were unacceptable and the voice of local people needs to be heard loud and clear."