XR Bristol protest calls for ‘fair travel, not air travel’

A protest around a bus with a banner that reads 'fair travel, not air travel'. XR Youth Bristol have been targeting buses as part of ongoing action
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Environmental activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) have once again stopped the Airport Flyer shuttle service in Bristol. In part, they’re protesting the reduction in public transport like buses which don’t support the carbon-intensive air industry. It goes further than that, however, as the XR Youth Bristol (XRYB) activists also have a list of demands:

XR: “fair travel not air travel”

The protest follows similar actions covered by the Canary on Saturday 5 November and Saturday 5 December:

Read on...

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XRYB announced the latest protest in a press release:

At 12:30pm today, youth environmental activists blocked an Airport Flyer bus on Bedminster Parade on its way to the City Centre, after the airport was given permission to expand by the High Court at the end of last month.

Activists from Extinction Rebellion Youth Bristol (XRYB) blocked the bus’ path by standing around it with banners (including one reading ‘Fair Travel not Air Travel’) as it attempted to leave the stop in Bedminster.

According to XRYB activists, no passengers on the bus were at risk of missing flights as it was returning from the airport to the City Centre.

Back in November, the action took place days before the High Court heard arguments on Bristol Airport’s expansion. The Canary reported at the time:

On 8 and 9 November, the High Court hears arguments on the expansion of Bristol Airport. XRYB points out that the expansion will significantly increase the quantity of carbon dioxide and equivalent greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year. XR Youth previously held a ‘die-in’ protest inside the airport terminal in March.

Fair buses

The protests were both part of XRYB’s ‘Free Buses, Fair Buses’ campaign that was launched in June. Alongside other groups, XRYB forms part of the ‘Reclaim Our Buses’ campaign – a coalition pushing for bus franchising in the West of England. Franchising in this instance would mean an end to unfettered deregulation, with councils regaining control over how bus services are run. An open letter to the relevant local authority reads:

The private bus companies are entirely profit-driven, so they’re justifying the bus cuts with the falling passenger numbers, rising fuel and wage costs, and driver shortages that make the services unprofitable with no regard for the public need. Further, the financial support from the government during the pandemic will soon end and the private bus companies are not obliged to continue running services that don’t make them profits. This deregulated market is always at odds with the bus services that many in our communities need to get to work, school, shops, and health centres.

The idea has recently received public support from several prominent figures, including Bristol South MP Karin Smyth and Green Party co-leader and councillor Carla Denyer.

According to XRYB:

FirstBus recently announced the cancellation of nearly 1,500 bus services a week across Bristol, continuing until at least April. This follows on from plans to cut up to 18 bus routes across the West of England … whilst also increasing the frequency of Airport Flyer buses from Bristol from every 20 to every 12 minutes.

Free bus travel

XRYB’s demands to the West of England Combined Authority and its constituent local authorities are:

Free buses: Free bus travel within the West of England (including North Somerset) for all those under the age of 25, all students, and all apprentices.

Fair buses: A consultation and public forum is run to identify improvements to bus routes that would best serve communities.

XR Youth spokesperson Torin Menzies said:

We need to revolutionise our public transport, including vastly improving the state of the West of England’s frankly awful bus network. Sadly, FirstBus are more interested in serving the potentially expanding Bristol Airport instead of our local communities, cutting bus routes across the region whilst increasing the Airport Flyer service.

Bristol Airport expansion will increase flights and emissions at a time of climate emergency, as well as worsening air quality, and FirstBus are actively supporting these plans. What we need is fair travel, not air travel.

XRYB’s movement for free buses has also seen them placing temporary messages near bus stops:

Featured image via and additional images via James Ward

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