Community transport operator to run longest Metrobus route

Bristol Community Transport (BCT), part of the HCT Group, has been unveiled as the operator of Metrobus’s longest route.

The operator is to run the m1 Metrobus route under contract to First West of England. It is to invest £7m in a fleet of 21 ADL bodied Scania biogas double-deckers running on gas generated from food waste. Grant aid of £1.6m has been received from the DfT under the Low Emission Bus Scheme towards the overall investment. This is the first part of a much bigger scheme awarded by the DfT last year to provide biogas buses in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

The m1 route connects south Bristol, the city centre, University of the West of England and Cribbs Causeway. It is part of the region’s new Metrobus bus rapid transit (BRT) system, designed to speed bus journeys in the area. In addition to the m1 service, the other two routes, m2 and m3, will be operated directly by First West of England. The buses on the services, featuring colour coded livery, have specially designed interiors have a new seat fabric, wi-fi and USB charging points, while the specially-selected drivers will wear Metrobus-specific uniforms. First is to operate on Metrobus routes using Euro VI emission diesel buses at launch but these will be replaced by biogas buses within two years.

Bristol Community Transport (BCT) is Bristol’s largest community transport operator and a part of transport social enterprise HCT Group, which operates major transport contracts in London, Jersey, Guernsey and Leeds. As a social enterprise, they reinvest the profits from their commercial work into further transport services or projects in the communities they serve. BCT already provides four regular bus routes in Bristol, operating under contract to Bristol City Council.

Metrobus is an ‘open access’ scheme; the operators are not contracted to the councils in any way, they are taking the commercial risk and do not have exclusivity on any route.

Valid tickets bought on the Metrobus network are accepted on the rest of the First West of England network in Bristol, and vice versa. The BRT’s stops are to feature new iPoint ticket machines, making Metrobus what is believed to be the only bus network outside London where passengers must buy their tickets before boarding.

Dai Powell, Chief Executive of HCT Group, said: “We’re really excited by Metrobus and delighted to be a part of it. We think it’s going to make a real difference to people in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. By providing a significant upgrade to the transport network, Metrobus creates a real opportunity to get people out of their cars and onto public transport, with all the environmental benefits that brings for people and planet.

“As a social enterprise, we don’t have shareholders and exist for community benefit. That means we will re-invest the money we make from Metrobus into services for elderly and disabled people in the local area, which we hope will go some way towards meeting the increasing needs of these groups.”

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