We are still asking the same questions we were asking a year ago. The SU proactively looking into bus solutions has come at a price - the University have been let off the hook. We are done doing their work for them.
Since The SU found out about the disastrous route changes on the 13th June 2018, and throughout the disruption since, we’ve been doing all we can to lobby both the University and First to get a bus service that we all deserve.
- Met with First’s management
- Secured a feedback email address
- Visited bus queues in town and Oldfield at the start of Semester handing out the email address
- Encouraged hundreds of students to email First with our complaints
- Set up a Bus feedback group to capture people’s stories
- Demanded that First meet with the University and the local Council
- Met with local councilors, chairs of local residents’ associations and our local MP
- Put together an alternative proposal and we presented it to First’s managing director
After hundreds of emails sent by us all to First, countless posts in the UniBus feedback group and significant local press coverage, at the end of October 2018 we heard that First had listened to our proposal and were going to implement it from January. This was an enormous win and simply would not have happened if we hadn’t come together as The SU to lobby for change.
However, us being so proactive has come at a price.
It has meant the University have been able to sit on their laurels for 12 months, content with it being our role to solve the bus crisis. We brought the issue up numerous times with members of Senior Management but got banded about from A to B with nobody taking full responsibility for the problem. We emphasized the business continuity risk to the University’s Governing body, but to date, haven’t seen them effectively hold the University’s executive to account on this issue. It’s felt like we’ve all been shouting into the void.
With a new Vice-Chancellor in post, and the Head of Commercial now heavily involved, more progress has been made than ever before. New meeting structures were put in place to work on the issue throughout the summer, but when very confidential information started to be discussed, The SU chose to take a step back.
We did not want to be party to information that would inhibit our ability to criticize the University or First. The more information we are party to that we can’t share with students, the further we move away from being a Students’ Union; a united front fighting for the issues that affect our community.
It is not our collective responsibility to negotiate with a private multi-million-pound bus provider, it is the University’s responsibility because it is business critical to their institution. Our role together, is in holding the University accountable for this responsibility. Therefore, we stepped back from the high level negotiations and discussions between the University and First to ensure we could hold the University accountable for the issue, and maintain our role as lobbyists.
We are done with doing the University’s work for them.
From the start, we as The SU had been holding out for some real action from the University. But not even a few-thousand strong Facebook group, various committee papers and constant lobbying spurred them into action. Before the summer exams, Eve – our President – gave a final ultimatum to the Vice-Chancellor and other members of senior management saying unequivocally, that they could not afford to ignore the bus situation any longer, and real action was required. Eve highlighted to them that they were so far removed from the situation, that if there was bus disruption during exams, they wouldn’t even be aware of it as they were so hands off. During those exams, we finally saw the University actually respond. They undertook daily monitoring of the buses, were in constant conversation with First and as a result we saw limited disruption which we were all grateful for.
However, since then it’s been months since the University communicated to us all anything about the work they’ve been doing over the summer, and worse still, First haven’t communicated what they’re doing either. All we’ve heard is that First are putting up their prices again, yet we’ve seen no promises of how they’re going to improve the service.
We’re still asking the same questions we were a year ago, and will keep asking those same questions until First and the University come up with a solution. We all need to keep posting in the UniBus feedback group, keep tweeting the University and First Bus and tagging them in Facebook posts until they give us the answers we’re looking for.
We want #BUStice.
(The #BUStice campaigned originated at York SU –it’s not just here in Bath that students are having issues with First Bus!)