New MetroBus service “likely to require subsidy”

Photo of a row of parked buses.
MetroBus vehicles at the Bristol Community Transport depot in Bedminster. (Archive image)

Public funding is likely to be needed to support services on the new MetroBus route currently being constructed along Gipsy Patch Lane, according to a report by the West of England Combined Authority (Weca).

Once complete, the £57 million Cribbs Patchway MetroBus Extension (CPME) will provide a route for fast and reliable bus services between Bristol Parkway and The Mall at Cribbs Causeway, via the Brabazon mixed-use development that is being built on the former Filton Airfield.

It will extend the existing MetroBus network that is formed of the M1, M2 and M3 routes.
At present the three existing MetroBus services operate on a commercial basis under a Quality Partnership Scheme.

Construction of the CPME route is expected to be completed by “early 2023”, from when it is hoped that services will start. However, concerns have recently emerged over whether it will be possible to find an operator to run the service on a fully commercial basis.

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A report prepared for a Weca meeting on 15th October 2021 stated:

“We have carried out engagement with bus operators who have expressed an interest in operating a service along the extension route and at present are working with them to see if such a service might operate commercially.”

“However, due to the impact of the pandemic on the bus market, with patronage currently only around 65 percent of pre-Covid levels, operators are cautious about committing to a commercial offer and it is likely that the service will require some funding in the short term.”

“If a commercial offer does not come forward this autumn and funding is therefore required to support the MetroBus service, even in the short term, the Combined Authority would need to carry out a procurement exercise to ensure a service is in place in early 2023.”

Members of the Combined Authority are yet to discuss the matter as the planned October meeting was left inquorate after it was boycotted by the leaders of the four West of England councils in a row with metro mayor Dan Norris over his right to veto certain proposals.

Map showing CPME route.
The route links Parkway with The Mall via Hatchet Road, Gipsy Patch Lane, the Horizon 38 business park and forthcoming developments on the former airfield.

View a hi-res version of the above route map (on Dropbox).

Journal editor Stephen Horton comments:

Given the availability of free car parking at The Mall and the fact that the build out of new homes on the former Filton Airfield will take many years, it might not be just the impact of the pandemic that is putting off operators. However, a white knight might be on the horizon in the form of passenger demand generated by the YTL Arena Complex that is soon to be built in the former Brabazon Hangars at the airfield.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2021 issue of the Stoke Gifford Journal magazine (on pages 20 & 21). The magazine is delivered FREE, nine times a year, to over 5,000 homes in Stoke Gifford, Little Stoke and Harry Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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