Mayor of Bridgwater, Cllr Mick Lerry (Labour, Victoria) has hit out at the proposed closure of Bridgwater Bus depot whilst Dave Chapple, Secretary of Bridgwater Trades Union Council has called for a protest this Saturday labelling the decision by First Bus a ‘disgrace’. Cllr Lerry said: “I had to report to the Somerset Bus Partnership on the 21st August that the reliability of the bus service for users in Bridgwater and the surrounding area, was a major problem in the recovery of the bus service. There had been an increase in passengers when the fares had been reduced to £2.00, but they will increase in November to £2.50. At the same time there will be changes to the following services as well, 21, 13 and 14, which will change the frequency of buses and make difficult for bus users to get to and from work, plus the understanding of the bus timetable. Such change will not be helpful to bus users, and some might stop using the bus service”.
Cllr Lerry went on to say: “The shortage of drivers is putting extreme pressure on reliability and the proposal to close the Bus Depot in Bridgwater, will also mean that drivers will have to travel to other depots to start work. This could lead to a further erosion in the number of drivers available to operate a good bus service. Now passengers are reluctant to rely on the bus service if they have a medical or dentist appointment. There are only a small number of routes that make a profit the others must be subsidised; the private commercial business of First Bus is unable to provide the service necessary for people without transport and for those who turn to using their car. Many drivers are preferring to work for the company transporting workers to Hinkley C, which is making it difficult for drivers to be recruited. The Transport Forum on Bridgwater Town Council will be discussing the issues relating to the bus service and the Bridgwater Depot, at their next meeting”.
Demo at Bus Station
Meanwhile, Bridgwater Trades Union Council with the support of Bridgwater bus drivers and other bus depot workers, has called a demonstration to protest against First Bus decision to close the Bridgwater Bus Depot altogether, and to make further drastic cuts to their bus services to and from Bridgwater, and across their whole Somerset area. Bridgwater Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) attended the meeting and has written directly to Simon Goff the man behind the First Bus cutbacks calling for him to reverse the decision and to offer an explanation. Cllr Smedley said “The protest will take place at Bridgwater Bus Station this Saturday 26th August, from 10am to 11.30am. All bus passengers, Bus User Groups, and Parish, Town and Somerset councillors are warmly invited to attend and support this protest.”
Bridgwater TUC Statement
A statement put out by Dave Chapple, secretary of Bridgwater Trades Council calls on First Bus to reconsider.
- For the first time since World War Two, Bridgwater will be without a bus depot
- Bridgwater services 21/21a (to Taunton, Highbridge, Burnham); 75 (To Puriton, Woolavington, Glastonbury. Street and Wells) and the Town Service No 1, are being cut
- Over 50 long-serving bus drivers and other workers, from September, will be forced to
drive to sign on in Taunton, or even further afield, with only 7 months fuel-cost subsidy
First Bus, let alone First Bus in Somerset, is a hugely profitable company: so why must the Bridgwater depot-a strong RMT trade union branch- be singled out: expected to ‘stand-alone’ with its revenue and expenditure? Bridgwater Trades Union Council, representing 48 union branches and over 15,000 local workers, has called on First Bus Somerset’s director Simon Goff to re-consider his decision to close the Bridgwater Bus Depot, at Boards Road, off The Drove. Although the actual bus station will remain unchanged, 53 Bridgwater-based bus drivers, supervisors, admin staff, mechanics and cleaners, all members of the RMT union, will lose their Bridgwater depot signing-on base. Even the essential rest room for drivers at the Bus Station is not guaranteed to stay open! To avoid the cost of redundancies, First Bus are offering transfers to Somerset Bus Partnership’s Hinkley Point contracts, as they own that company: but, as RMT union members tell us, that contract has a very limited life-span.
Dave Chapple, Bridgwater Trades Union Council Secretary, said: “The decision to close the Bridgwater Bus Depot, which has been a central part of town life since the second world
war, is a disgrace, as well as a tragedy for the workers affected. It seems as if First Bus have not seriously considered the Health and Safety aspects of the Bridgwater Depot closure: bus breakdowns, and closures of both the M5 Motorway and the A38 between Taunton and Highbridge are not unusual: and any of these occurrences can trigger drivers being forced over their legal driving limits, with 20 miles or more between surviving depots. Despite substantial County and National Government subsidies, First Bus Somerset are also taking this opportunity to slash even more services, including cuts to 21/21a on Saturdays, the Bridgwater town No 1 Route and the 75 to Wells. (A list of all the proposed cuts is attached) Anyone would think that Somerset did not have the unenviable reputation of having some of the lowest bus passenger numbers in the UK! Simon Goff has promised the RMT that any alternatives to closure will be reconsidered. So: is First Bus a profitable company? Yes! Should they re-consider their Bridgwater Depot closure plan? Yes! Should they reinstate ALL the proposed cuts to their services? Yes! “
The Trades Council is asking people to write to Simon Goff at email@example.com , asking him to re-consider the closure of the Bridgwater Bus Depot, and to withdraw the cuts to Bridgwater and Somerset Bus Services.