Changes to WESTlink bus service

18 Mar 2024
WESTlink

WESTlink passengers will start to see changes from Monday 8 April to make the demand responsive mini-bus service better for users, more sustainable and support North Somerset residents who don’t have access to a mainstream bus service. 

The West of England Combined Authority and North Somerset Council launched the region’s WESTlink bus service as a trial in April 2023, which has been consistently under review.

It can be booked on-demand or a day in advance and aims to support residents within designated travel zones make bus journeys that can’t be made using other forms of public transport. It also connects people to main bus or train services for onward travel. 

More than 110,000 trips have been made by people travelling on WESTlink since it started - and it’s becoming more popular with the number of monthly trips doubling to more than 13,000 in February 2024.

Feedback from a user on the rider app said: “It picked us up on time, was very easy to use and book a bus. I was told the plate number, the model of bus and name of driver. Driver is very friendly, seat comfortable. It’s such a great service plus very affordable. I’m very happy with it.”

In December, North Somerset Council hosted a Bus Forum which included asking for feedback on WESTlink. As well as this, a survey was shared across the region to help shape April’s bus operational changes; over 1700 responses were received. 

It was clear that people can’t always access WESTlink when they want to, particularly for on-demand requests. 

As a result, from Monday 8 April 2024 users will see the following changes to the service: 

  • Smaller WESTlink zones to reduce long trips and increase availability for more users. 
  • Removing WESTlink from areas which are well-served by regular bus services. 
  • Adding in places requested by residents such as Hutton Moor Leisure Centre and Audley Redwood Retirement Village.
  • Implementing an app feature where if a suitable bus service can be used to complete the user's requested journey, they won't be offered a WESTlink (they'll be shown where and when to catch the bus instead). 
  • Allowing people with already-purchased AvonRider multi-operator bus tickets to use them on WESTlink.

New zones

There are currently three large core zones across the region - the North, South and FTZ zones. There are also two shared zones that can be accessed from an adjacent core zone. From 8 April, these will be replaced by nine smaller “core” zones and 12 shared zones.

Maps showing the new zones will be available on the travelWEST website from the week commencing 25 March. 

This will help tackle one of the biggest issues identified by passenger feedback – that WESTlink buses aren’t always available when needed. One reason for this is that buses are often being used to make long journeys with just one person on board. This can take a bus out of action for up to an hour and leave other people waiting. One WESTlink journey was logged at almost 20 miles long.

There will also be new North Somerset locations served by updated WESTlink zones. These include: 

  • Nailsea & Backwell Rail Station
  • Wick St Lawrence, Icelton, Bourton, West Hewish, East Hewish and Puxton
  • Audley Redwood Retirement Village (at request of residents), along with nearby Failand
  • Hutton Moor Leisure Centre (at request of users). 

All locations that are in the Somerset Council area (rather than North Somerset Council) are no longer served. This includes Axbridge, Cross, Shipham and Star. Following the successful award of the new joint 126 service by Somerset and North Somerset Council, most of these areas are now covered by the 126. 

Most of Weston-super-Mare town centre and the surrounding neighbourhoods will no longer be served by WESTlink as they are well-served by local bus services (such as 1, 5, 6, 7, 20, X1 & X5). Instead, the bus interchange and the rail station will become the two WESTlink destinations for people travelling into and out of Weston-super-Mare town centre.

Worlebury will still be served by WESTlink as the 9 service only operates between 9am and 3pm.

For people wishing to travel to/from Bristol, they will now need to use a scheduled bus service for part or all of their journey. For residents in most of North Somerset this will be via services X1, X4, X6, X7, X8 & X9. Those not near to one of those services can use WESTlink to get to and from a bus stop to connect with the bus. 

Residents in the Chew Valley can use WESTlink to connect with services m1, 75, 76 & 90 at Hengrove, A1 at Bristol Airport, 75 at Highridge Green, or A1 & U2 at stops on the A38. 

Whilst Service A1 is usually a premium fare service, people living near the Airport can apply for a travelcard to give discounted travel on Services A1 and A3, including free travel for concessionary bus pass holders. For more information on that scheme visit: Local resident Concessionary schemes (bristolairport.co.uk) (or email flyer@bristolairport.com).

The changes will help WESTlink run more efficiently, giving more people access to key services across the region. The service has been refocused to areas that don’t have a bus service and smaller zones should mean that more people can share WESTlink buses as intended. 

WESTlink should become more reliable, and passengers will have more confidence that they can book a WESTlink when they want and need to.

WESTlink fares are capped at £2 for a single journey until December 2024. Visit the WESTlink website here: Home - WESTlink (travelwest.info)

WESTlink is part of the West of England Combined Authority and North Somerset Bus Service Improvement Plan. 

The West of England area received over £105 million from the Department for Transport to improve bus services by 2025 – the second largest grant in the country. 

Throughout the West of England area bus journeys will become faster, more convenient, coordinated and better for the environment and your pocket than running a car. 

Working in partnership, North Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority want to encourage everyone to ‘walk or wheel’ where possible, helping reach their carbon neutral goal by 2030. When that’s not possible, they want bus travel to be the first choice over car usage, helping ease traffic congestion and a greener way to travel.