Photo by Charlie Cars
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You know what they say about buses…

Well now, maybe you don’t. Starting 2nd September, the U1 (and some of the U2 line) is going to change.

On Tuesday the 3rd of July, Eve Alcock, the SU’s current president, announced from her SU Facebook profile that First Bus was altering their route to “reduce air pollution in the centre of town.”  As a result of this, some of the previously frequently used stops are now going to be skipped or taken out of the route altogether.

The current routes:

Current U1, U2, and U1X routes (from February 2018).
Current U1, U2, and U1X routes in the city centre (from February 2018).

The principle points Eve highlighted were that:

  • The route will avoid Dorchester Street, Manvers Street and the Abbey
  • The main ‘town’ bus stop UP to campus will be Corn Street where U1s currently stop anyway on their way into town
  • The main ‘town’ bus stop ON THE WAY BACK from campus will be the ‘Ambury’ which is very near Corn Street on edge of Avon street car park
  • Though North Parade will no longer be served on the way down to town, there will be a stop on Pulteney Road near the turning for North Parade
Proposed U1 route.

She also mentioned that the U2 route is changing a bit, too. All that is known so far is that  the 20A/C routes are going to be integrated in the new route so that the U2 “maintains the route through the Combe Down area and then operates an anti-clockwise loop down Coronation Avenue”, no longer going further into the Oldfield neighbourhood after Coronation Avenue as it previously did. The image below further illustrates this.

Proposed U2 route.

With the U1 representing a quarter of Bath’s bus operations, First quotes the City Council’s aims to reduce air pollution in the city centre as justification for these changes. However, First’s website boasts that the buses on the U1 route are already environmentally friendly, stating that their buses’ EuroVI diesel engines have driven NOx emission down by up to 95%. In addition to this, a report from August 2018 states that overall, air pollution has decreased by 10% in the city. What can be noted here is that U1 buses have attracted negative attention for being “very visible”.

James Freeman, Managing Director of First Bath said:

“In recent discussions with local authority officers … it was suggested that we should look to remove these University buses from the city centre … we do understand that any change is unwelcome for some users, especially one which calls for more walking, but we are operating in a UNESCO World Heritage City which has a very serious air quality and congestion problem.”

According to the University website, First are also “planning a new Service 10 between Bath Abbey and the University at a 30-minute frequency between approximately 0900 and 1430.”

“We’re the last priority in the sense that if they upset us, we’ll be leaving in a couple of years, so it doesn’t really matter to them.”

A student told us:

“It feels like the students are being dissuaded from living anywhere other than Oldfield Park. Students who live elsewhere will only have the new service (infrequent and restricted) or the 20A/20C which is infrequent and unreliable.”

It appears to some that University students are not necessarily considered when these alterations are executed:

“I don’t necessarily think they’re going out of its [sic] way to inconvenience us, we’re just their last priority. So the buses may be more obvious than some of the other buses, why is the solution to change the bus route rather than the appearance of the buses? Especially when the uni buses are more environmentally friendly than all the other buses that run through town?”

“I would urge [First Buses] in future to seek student opinions before making such drastic changes as this one.”

Other concerns about these changes are regarding mobility for any disabled students. Speaking to the Former Chair of the University’s Disabled Students Group, we covered how the city appears to someone whose access can be limited.

“Bath is already quite an inaccessible city for students with mobility issues, as many of the streets have uneven paving which is not suitable for wheelchairs or other mobility aids. Bus stops closer to the city centre can be vital for students to access areas of town, so removing those stops at such short notice could be detrimental. Some disabled students choose to live on campus, so these changes make it hard for them to get into town, but it also has impacts for people with mobility issues who live off campus too. They may have chosen a house purely because it was close enough to a bus stop for them to live off campus, but now they may have to arrange alternative transport – getting the funds for this at very short notice can be extremely difficult.”

When asked about the consideration of students in the matter, the speaker wasn’t too impressed:

“It seems like First haven’t really considered any students’ views before making this change, seeing as they are applying it at a point in the year where everyone has already signed their housing contracts. I would urge them in future to seek student opinions before making such drastic changes as this one.”

 

Want to weigh in on this? The University have set up a feedback email address to hear what people think: newU1route@bath.ac.uk

 

Darcey Stickley

Darcey Stickley is a final year Spanish & Politics student and Editor-in-Chief for 2020/1.

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