A look at present-day bus operations in Weston-super-Mare
Thanks to the wonders of S.S. Great Britain, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the West Somerset Railway, yours truly returned to Weston-super-Mare. Which of course explains my recent absence of posts on East of the M60.
In the last four years since my previous visit to the North Somerset resort, Weston-super-Mare’s buses have seen some changes. Earlier this year, Crosville Motor Services have pulled out of bus operation. Its only concession to public transport operation is a seasonal Dotto Road Train along the promenade up to the marine lake by Knightstone Island. Maintenance issues saw the company pulling out of tendered work and its retreat from bus operations shortly after this Easter.
Two years ago, Webberbus ceased operations throughout North Somerset. Financial irregularities saw to that with some of its operations transferring to FirstGroup’s Bristol, Bath and The West company. For many people, the mere mention of FirstGroup conjures up imagery of its Barbie liveries and ageing buses. If you go to Weston today, you may be a little surprised. FirstGroup’s branding for some of its routes are at least the equal of those seen on Transdev, Go-Ahead or Trent Barton buses.
Since my previous visit, there has been some improvement in the delivery of bus service information. As you would expect, the usual timetable boards are mounted to shelters and bus stops. Close to its Regent Street stops (near McDonalds) is a departure board which not only details bus times. It also details the latest train times and, below the display screen, is another screen which has an interactive map (this puts a few urban areas to shame).
Though the totem with the departure board and map is a good idea, the use of paper maps on bus shelters shouldn’t also be ruled out. Some passengers may have trouble navigating the map due to their height or a far from platonic relationship with IT systems.
Main stopping points
In Weston-super-Mare, the Grand Pier, Winter Gardens and Regent Street remain the town’s main stopping points. On Francis Ford Road opposite the railway station is the town’s coach station.
The Grand Pier stop is probably the closest stop Weston has to a bus station. As we said in 2014, the shelter is of higher construction standards compared with bog standard shelters in the vicinity. To make things easier, another information display at the Grand Pier stops would be useful.
Since our last visit in 2014, the Tourist Information Centre or the library on Walliscote Grove Road isn’t the only useful source. Smartphones have become a useful travel tool as well as being cameras and… erm, telephones. The Travelwest website is a useful source, on a par with anything that Integrated Transport Authorities, TfL or TfGM would put out.
* * *
Bus services in Weston-super-Mare
First Bristol, Bath and The West
1: Weston-super-Mare [Grand Pier] – Sand Bay
Following the departure of Crosville Motor Services from stage carriage operation, FirstGroup have taken on their seasonal service. Operating every hour all year round (half hourly in the summer season), it links Sand Bay with the centre of Weston, taking in a beautiful ride. Sometimes open top Dennis Tridents and Volvo B7s with Somerset Coaster route branding. On other occasions, Volvo B9s and Enviro400s.
X1/X2: Weston-super-Mare – Congresbury – Bristol
FirstGroup’s flagship service in the resort is their Excel express service to Bristol city centre. The X2 varies from the X1 by going through Claverham. Between Worle and Weston, it is complemented with the…
3: Worle – Weston-super-Mare – Searle Crescent
A local service with operates every 15 minutes on weekdays and Saturdays then every 20 minutes from 1600 hours and half hourly till 2015 hours. Every 45 minutes on Sundays till 1913. Again prefaced with ‘W’ on FirstGroup website to avoid clashes other 3s.
For passengers wishing to travel after 7pm, there is another option if you live in Worle…
A3: Bristol Airport – Worle – Weston-super-Mare
Weston-super-Mare’s direct link with Bristol Airport is represented with smart blue and silver buses (now there’s an old school aviation livery choice). This operates every hour from 0310 to 0045. Which makes for a near 24-hour service putting High Peak’s 199 service from Buxton to Manchester Airport to shame.
What’s more, passengers can buy a ticket for the A3 on any First bus in Weston-super-Mare. Without being penalised for a break of journey for their airport bus.
5: Worle – Weston-super-Mare – Hutton
Local service, operates once hourly on weekdays and Saturdays. No buses after 1900 hours, nor Sunday and Bank Holiday services. Passes Weston General Hospital.
X5: Cribbs Causeway – Clevedon – Weston-super-Mare
The X5 is one of two express routes from Weston-super-Mare to Clevedon, continuing to Portishead and Cribbs Causeway. Once hourly, it almost follows the long defunct Weston, Clevedon, and Portishead Light Railway. Instead of the usual Barbie livery, it is in the orange of their Excel branding.
7: Worle – Weston-super-Mare – Oldmixon
Local service, operates every 15 minutes on weekdays and Saturdays then every 45 minutes after 1956. Every 20 minutes on Sundays till 1742 then half hourly till 2000 hours.
X7: Bristol – Clevedon – Congresbury – Weston-super-Mare
Another hourly express service, the X7 is a sister Excel route which continues to Bristol. With the X6 service, this makes for two Excel buses per hour from Clevedon to Bristol. Weston-super-Mare’s route finishes for 2038. There is no Sunday and Bank Holiday service on the X7 whereas its sister route does. The X6 also finishes at midnight.
20: Weston-super-Mare – Oldmixon – Brean – Burnham-on-Sea
By day, the 20 Somerset Coaster service offers an important yet slightly rural route to Burnham-on-Sea. It offers a regular service from Brean’s many caravan sites and holiday camps which is once hourly. In the high summer season, every half hour – sometimes with the appearance of open-top double deckers.
Though the 20 service does have Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys, there is no evening service. Which means if you are fed up with the entertainment in Brean Sands Pontins camp, taxis to Weston or Burnham-on-Sea.
121: Weston-super-Mare – Bristol Airport – Bristol
The 121 is one of two services to call at the Helicopter Museum and offers a link with Bristol Airport. There is six return journeys along the full route on weekdays and Saturdays (eight up to Bristol Airport, nine from Wrington to Weston-super-Mare). Its Sunday and Bank Holiday service is operated by Bakers Dolphin.
126: Weston-super-Mare – Cheddar – Wells
Billed as The Mendip Explorer, the 126 takes in Cheddar village and the city of Wells (as seen in Hot Fuzz). It operates hourly from 0550 to 2021 on weekdays and Saturday. Its Sunday and Bank Holiday service is more limited – four return journeys every three hours from 0840 – 2013. Despite its rebranding, some subtle changes on its 2014 timetable have included slightly earlier finishes.
* * *
North Somerset Council/Weston and District Community Transport
Following the loss of Crosville Motor Services from Weston’s bus scene, their 106 service has been split into two routes. They are the C1 and the C2. Like Nexus Move’s 356 service in Saddleworth, smaller minibuses are used. With funding from North Somerset Council, both routes are operated by Weston and District Community Transport.
B1: Weston-super-Mare – Uphill – Bleadon
In Traveline South West’s planner, the B1 is seen as a standard radial service with four return journeys. The first journey leaves Weston at 0835 before reaching Bleadon for 0852, and returning for 0909. On its return journeys Oldmixon is served as part of a looped section. Its last journey leaves Weston at 1545, reaching Bleadon for 1602 before returning for 1619. There are no Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys, and the service only operates on weekdays.
C1: Weston-super-Mare – Worlebury
If you wish to get to Worlebury [Weston Woods] without walking, the C1 is the answer to your prayers. Taking 11 minutes to complete the journey, there are seven return journeys running once hourly. Before you plan your journey, there is a two hour gap during lunchtime.
C2: Knightstone [South Road] – Weston-super-Mare
The second community bus completes the journey in 12 minutes with seven return journeys. Journeys operate once hourly with a two hour gap during lunchtime.
L1: Weston-super-Mare – Locking Parklands
Five return journeys connect the town centre with Bourneville, Locking, and Hillend. Three out of the five return journeys also call at Ashcombe and Worle Moor. Journeys only operate on weekdays.
* * *
Before you think somebody has resurrected Citibus in Weston-super-Mare, don’t panic. The company operates two bus routes from Weston to Bishop Sutton (the 134 and 135). The 24 offers a Fridays only circular service with a radial variation.
24: Weston-super-Mare – Uphill Circular/Worle Moor
There are two journeys on the 24 service which only operate on Fridays. The first one is a circular route which departs from Regent Street at 1020, taking in Uphill, Oldmixon, and Hutton, before returning to the town centre for 1109.
The second journey leaves Worle Moor at 1255, taking in Bournevill, Oldmixon, and Uphill before reaching Weston-super-Mare for 1335. This is probably a positioning journey for the 135 to Bishop Sutton.
134: Weston-super-Mare – Bishop Sutton
There is only one return journey on the 134 – and it only runs once a week. On Tuesdays only, Citistar’s service is designed purely for shoppers, leaving Bishop Sutton at 0912 hours (arr. at 1039 in Weston). It takes in a number of villages including Ubley and Banwell. Its return journey leaves Regent Street at 1300, arriving in Bishop Sutton for 1420.
135: Weston-super-Mare – Bishop Sutton
There is only one return journey on the 135 – and it only runs once a week. On Fridays only, Citistar’s service is designed purely for shoppers, leaving Bishop Sutton at 0900 hours (arr. at 1009 in Weston). Its return journey leaves Regent Street at 1345, arriving in Bishop Sutton for 1456. On its return journey, some stops can be omitted due to passenger requests.
* * *
Isle of Wedmore Rural Transport Association
One thing you would have noticed with 2018 operations in Weston-super-Mare is the increased use of community groups taking on local bus routes. The Isle of Wedmore Rural Transport Association is one, operating community bus routes since the late 1970s.
754: Wedmore – Weston-super-Mere
On Thursdays, the Isle of Wedmore Rural Transport Association operate a return journey to Weston, leaving Wedmore at 0930 (arriving for 1018). Its return journey leaves Waterloo Street at 1345, before returning to Wedmore for 1418.
* * *
Before I go…
As with my 2014 observations, there are still too few evening services. Compared with four years ago, some of FirstGroup’s commercial offerings really do look well on the street. Their Excel, The Mendip Explorer and Somerset Coaster branding is effective enough to wow casual passengers. Even when applied to rather elderly buses. It made me rather envious, in comparison with contemporary operations in my neck of the woods.
Sadly, no amount of glitzy branding on a 51-reg Volvo B7 or Dennis Trident could address punctuality. Vinyls have never been proven in curbing overzealous traffic lights nor the safe passage of hay lorries on country roads. Outside the charm offensive, a fair number of Westonians have seen cuts to short distance routes and evening journeys. How I wish the 1 service ran after 6pm (how many £4.50 taxi fares would this have saved me?).
Before I go, feel free to comment on the state of Weston-super-Mare’s bus services. Any ways around existing bus routes or observations are welcome.
S.V., 30 July 2018.