First consults at Bridgwater
Following an in depth review of the company’s entire network, First has withdrawn six of its services in the south west of England. The company has also started the collective consultation process with trade unions on the possibility of up to 12 redundancies at its Bridgwater bus depot in Somerset. However, the company is hopeful that no redundancies will be necessary and affected staff will be offered opportunities in neighbouring depots. The consultation process for this is due to conclude on 30 May 2013. There are 40 staff employed at the Bridgwater depot, which operates 24 buses.
A statement from First said the six services being cancelled have underperformed for a number of years, despite the introduction of a variety of marketing and promotional initiatives. The operator is now faced with extra cost pressures due to the economic climate, high fuel prices, increased competition and cuts in external funding. In Weston-super-Mare it proposes to remove service 1 and service 14. In Bridgwater, it proposes to remove town services 1, 2 and 3, but will register a brand new route to ensure existing customers still have a First service. In Taunton, service 22 will have its frequency increased from every 20 minutes to every 15, but service 92 will be discontinued. According to First, these proposed changes to the routes will ensure the long term sustainability of other, better used services.
Service Delivery Director, at First in Somerset, Paul Matthews, said, ‘We have been running some services at a loss for some time, despite our best efforts to encourage greater demand. As a commercial operator, we simply cannot afford to continue to fund such little used routes. I know that some of our customers will be disappointed with our proposals but we will be working with Somerset County Council on the future of bus services in the area. I can assure customers that we remain fully committed to operating services across Somerset and will continuously look for opportunities to grow the network where demand exists. Our proposals do not, in any way, reflect the commitment and quality of our staff in the area. I cannot speak highly enough of their professionalism and dedication. We will be doing everything that we can and will explore all options to avoid making any of our staff redundant. I’m hopeful that redundancies will not be necessary.’