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Wessex Wages War On First

If you travel on the ‘1’, you will now have a choice as to which provider you use. Photo by Iain Walker.

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do…

So sang Harry Nilsson in ‘One‘, a song made famous first by Three Dog Night then later by Aimee Mann, but as of last Monday, ‘one’ is no longer the loneliest number in the world of Bristol buses.

That’s because Wessex, a local bus operator, has just launched ‘the One’ – a new bus service that directly rivals the long-established ‘1’ service operated by First Bristol. ‘The One’ runs seven days a week between Union Street, in the city centre, and Cribbs Causeway, just outside of Bristol, travelling via Whiteladies Road, Westbury-on-Trym and Henbury.

“It’s foul play,” remarked one angry commentator. “You can’t steal another bus’s number – there’s a decorum to be observed!”

In spite of this disruption of tradition, Wessex hopes to win over customers with its cheaper fares. Stephen Watkins, the firm’s General Manager, says, “We have been undertaking a number of surveys in the past few months to identify where there is a need for improved links and lower cost fares. We believe that our new ‘the One’ will provide a frequent and cost effective alternative service along this route. We are looking to make this route a success with dedicated vehicles, dedicated staff with low-cost and simple fares. We are also now working on further routes that we can introduce through early 2016.”

One student who uses the ‘1’ every day was impressed with the lower prices – 80p as opposed to £1 for his daily journey– and was quick to comment that it increased flexibility as services were scheduled to arrive between the First buses. According to the student, the Wessex buses were originally empty as people weren’t aware of the new service, but throughout the week they got busier and busier.

However, there’s some criticism about the fact that the new service only goes as far as Union Street, while the First bus goes all the way to Broomhill. One commuter from Brislington said, “I am disappointed that the new ‘One’ will not be going to south Bristol as we won’t see the benefits of this increased competition.”

From an economic standpoint, this new service may well lower prices for everyone, even users of First buses, as it will increase the supply of bus services. Considering that Wessex have entered the market with lower initial prices, First could cut their fares sometime soon to prevent their customers from flocking to Wessex buses. There have long been complaints about Bristol buses being too expensive – could this be what turns the tide? Is there a price war on the horizon?

Two can be as bad as one, it’s the loneliest number since the number one.

The above quote is the next line in the Harry Nilsson song ‘One’ mentioned at the start of this article, but if Wessex follow through with their plan to roll out even more services, ‘two’ could also be getting a lot less lonely in the near future.