The joint Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset MetroBus team has confirmed that the first bus operator to start running part of the MetroBus service is First Bristol. First Bristol will start running the MetroBus route from Ashton Vale to Temple Meads as soon as infrastructure works are completed and roadside facilities are installed.
Progress on the first MetroBus route to open is going well. The bus guideway with its associated cycle and pedestrian track is well under construction, the skew bridge that guides MetroBus over the Bristol to Portishead railway line and under the elevated section of the A370 is nearly complete. In addition the £3.8million refurbishment of Ashton Avenue Bridge is finished and it is now open to pedestrians and cyclists, and the second bridge at Bathurst Basin that doubles the road space available to all vehicles and provides new space for cyclists and pedestrians is also progressing well.
Cllr Colin Hunt, Cabinet Member for Planning, Transportation and the Strategic Environment at South Gloucestershire Council said: “I am delighted to welcome First Bus as the operator of our first MetroBus service, with their support for the new off bus ticketing system alongside their investment in brand new, high quality, low emission vehicles together we’ll be setting a new high standard for bus travel in the area”
James Freeman, Managing Director of First Bristol said: “MetroBus marks the start of an exciting new era for public transport in and around Bristol, with even lower-emission vehicles, faster boarding and dedicated sections of priority highway. It will be an entirely new way of travelling with one of the main features that the public will notice being that MetroBus only offers off-bus ticketing, which means that customers will buy their tickets before they board the vehicle which will result in a noticeably faster journey.”
Cllr Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Public Transport at Bristol City Council added: “I am very much looking forward to MetroBus services starting that will benefit from the segregation and bus priority measures. These measures and new smart ticketing will generate a noticeable uplift of quality and reliability to the public transport network.”
Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, Deputy Leader at North Somerset Council and Executive Member for Strategic Planning, Highways and Transport added: “MetroBus is opening up new public transport corridors that also benefit general traffic flow so it’s a win-win situation for all. This is great news for our region’s economy and will really help to tackle congestion.”
Buses for the first route to open are on order and are on track to arrive well before services start, allowing sufficient time for extensive vehicle testing and training to familiarise drivers with the route and the use of guidewheels on the busway. This also includes training for Bristol Airport Flyer drivers who will be using the busway with a new fleet of vehicles providing prompt and reliable journey times between the city of Bristol and the Airport. The Airport also intends to maintain transport links with Bedminster to ensure continued access for staff and passengers living along the current route.
How MetroBus services will operate - how the Quality Partnership Scheme works.
The councils are not contracting with or paying bus operators to run MetroBus services. The operators are commercial companies running commercial services and they will take the business risk. MetroBus is a scheme open to any operator at any time, provided they meet the requirements of the Quality Partnership Scheme and associated Voluntary Partnership Agreement.
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire councils and the Department for Transport have funded the improvements to the network and put in place new MetroBus only facilities, such as the busway from Long Ashton Park and Ride and the new bus-only junction on and off the M32, segregated routes, separate junctions, new bus lanes, improvements at junctions, 92 new bus stops all of which will have interactive information points which will provide a range of tickets. Together with twin sets of doors, the fully off-bus ticket system will allow MetroBus to provide a reliable, predictable service minimising the time spent at stops to benefit journey times.
Some of these facilities are only available to MetroBus operators that agree to the terms of a sub agreement (known as a Voluntary Partnership Agreement) to the Quality Partnership Scheme (QPS). Others, such as the new layout in the city centre, provide journey time reliability for the benefit of all buses in the city, as well as providing additional road space for buses and cyclists and improved journey time reliability for all traffic.
The QPS sets out the minimum standards MetroBus operators must meet, including vehicle quality, vehicle emissions, branding, maximum fares, minimum service frequencies and how often the buses are cleaned. The full QPS will be published on the travelwest.info website.
The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) confirms the services that an operator will provide and sets the framework for the monitoring of both services and the facilities. Under the VPA, the MetroBus operator is responsible for the vehicles and the running of the bus services. The Councils are responsible for the MetroBus road network, roadside infrastructure and facilities including bus shelters and interactive information points, online MetroBus sales and information channels.
Regular meetings of operators and the councils at the MetroBus Performance Group will monitor the services and facilities to ensure standards on both sides are maintained as agreed in the VPA and QPS. A jointly agreed MetroBus Performance Report will also be published on the travelwest.info website.