Somerset scraps Saturday park-&-ride endangering hospital links

Saturday park-&-ride services in Taunton are being axed after 30 December, saving Somerset County Council £50,000 but putting Saturday links to Musgrove Park Hospital at risk.

The council postponed reducing the P&R1 (Gateway Park-&-Ride-Town Centre- Musgrove Park Hospital-Silk Mills Park-&- Ride) to weekdays only – as part of wider £18million cuts – until after Christmas to help traders.

First South West operates the cross-town contract, with a peak vehicle requirement of six, as part of its The Buses of Somerset network. It leases seven dedicated Wright StreetLite DFs from Mistral Bus & Coach.

Buses run every 12 to 15min 06.45-19.30 on weekdays and 07.30-18.30 on Saturdays.

In an agreement reached with effect from August 2016, town centre-hospital links were made into the P&R1, enabled the formerly daily route 9 to the hospital to run on Sundays only, using buses otherwise on layover.

Non park-&-ride hospital passengers pay fares (or use passes) directly to First, whereas all park-&-ride revenue collected reduces its contract payments.

First will safeguard hospital links by reducing its service 1 (Town Centre-Wellsprings) from every 15 to 20min on Saturdays – when no buses have sufficient layover – to release a bus to run a Saturday service on the 9.

The council says park-&-ride use is considerably lower on Saturdays, with it not adding up financially amid huge budget pressure. In December 2016, 3,256 Saturday journeys were made out of a total of 33,619. Car drivers, including shop workers, would pay £6 a day to use town centre car parks on Saturdays.

First was awarded the park-&-ride in April 2014 after WebberBus – which collapsed in May 2016 – had its seven-year contract terminated early for poor performance.

First South West 47538 (MK63 XAP), one of seven Wright StreetLite DFs leased for Taunton park-&-ride.