Councillors choose 'least worst option' in response to petition for a direct bus from Yate to new Southmead Hospital
AN all-day direct bus from Yate to the new Southmead Hospital is looking unlikely after South Gloucestershire councillors admitted the venture would not be commercially attractive.
The council’s planning, transportation and environment committee (PTSE) considered four options for a service to link people from Yate, Chipping Sodbury and surrounding villages with the region’s only acute hospital due to open next year.
It follows a widespread campaign, led by Thornbury and Yate MP Steve Webb, for a direct bus to be laid on for patients, visitors and staff to get to Southmead which is well known for its heavy congestion.
But members of the committee expressed their disappointment that they were not able to provide the service, largely because £1.5million public funding from the NHS development, known as section 106 money, was given to Bristol City Council for transport and very little has been allocated to South Gloucestershire.
Cllr Pat Hockey (Lib Dem, Frampton Cotterell) started calling for improved public transport from South Gloucestershire when the Southmead site was chosen over Frenchay, which sits next to the Avon Ring Road and just minutes from the M32 motorway, in 2005.
"All of us involved in PTSE have taken this very seriously and have tried to sort something out," she told the meeting last Wednesday (September 4). "The section 106 money, which is the basis of all these problems, is not of our making. Nobody in this room was involved in that negotiation. It was a Bristol City Council thing and we were on the edge of it.
"When we asked city councillors to have an ad hoc meeting about it they declined."
She added: "This problem was not of our making at all but we are stuck with it and have got to make the best of it."
Cllr Hockey said the ‘least worst’ solution was combining two options. The first, considered to have the strongest chance of becoming commercially viable, would increase the existing Wessex Connect 581 service from Yate to Hanham via Parkway Station where passengers can get a connecting bus to Southmead, to a half-hourly service and ensuring a maximum waiting time for a connecting bus of 10 minutes. The second, an additional service direct from Yate to Southmead during visitor hours only, would be provided by a community transport scheme but would require funding from the council.
Cllr Colin Hunt (Con, Emersons Green) said: "To me the only option that can possibly become commercial, and that is the only thing bus companies are interested in, is the first one.
"We have to make sure it will be commercially viable or in a few years time we could have serious problems."
The proposal, which included plans to look into using an underspend in the council’s public health budget, was agreed unanimously by the committee.
Prior to the debate, Cllr Ruth Davis (Lib Dem, Yate) handed in a petition signed by thousands of people from Yate and further afield calling for a direct bus.
She said afterwards: "It still doesn’t solve the problem. One of the issues is bringing services like out patient appointments out to Yate so people don’t have to go on a bus at all.
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