Protest over Bridgwater depot closure
Campaigners took to the streets today in protect at First Group’s decision to close Bridgwater bus depot. Although the bus station will remain open, 53 drivers will now be expected to find their own way to Taunton to pick up their buses. Dave Chapple from the Bridgwater Trades Union Council said even the rest room for drivers was at risk. Speaking at the protest today Mr Chapple said ‘Bridgwater won’t give up without a fight’. David Redgewell of the Somerset Bus Partnership travelled (by bus) from Frome to voice his support for the depot. Somerset Councillor and Leader of the Labour Group Leigh Redman interrupted his holiday to phone in his support.
Meanwhile Somerset and Bridgwater Councillor Brian Smedley has written to Simon Goff, Managing Director of First Buses. In his letter he told Mr Goff “Bus travel is on the increase across the country and it’s a priority for a green and sustainable future so they need to think long term not short term. Bridgwater is a growing town with increased industry coming here and its already a transport hub so it’s incredibly short sighted to close this crucial service centre now and relocate these 53 people around the county when they’re needed here along with the bus depot.”
He also took a swipe at the LibDem administration at Somerset Council. He claimed Lib Dem Transport Portfolio Holder Cllr Mike Rigby had been ‘asleep at the wheel’.
He also pointed out the decision ran contrary to green policies adopted by the town. In response, Mr Goff suggested that the Somerset services were running at a loss. He states that the company cannot continue to run services at a loss.
First Group which owns Buses for Somerset reported adjusted attributable profit of £82.1m for 2023. Figures which it said were ahead of expectations and more than doubled the 2022 result of £36.2m.
Cllr Smedley has asked Mr Goff to come and meet in Bridgwater. He wants to discuss the issues around the local service and the impact the changes will have on the 53 staff based at the depot.