The cost of bus travel across the Bath area is set to change for the better on 6th July following the announcement of First Bus’ recent consultation results.
Earlier this year bus operator First West of England held a six-week public consultation across the West of England area, asking bus users – and non-users – what they wanted to see from their local service.
Almost 2,000 people took part, filling in consultation questionnaires and sharing their feedback. The data has since been analysed, with a new fare structure designed as a result.
The changes to fares are primarily intended to address long standing issues regarding the cost of travel and the associated perception around value for money, while looking at ways to increase the overall number of people travelling by bus.
They will affect all First West of England bus services with the exception of those operating in Bristol’s Inner Zone.
In a move that is expected to please many, while helping to encourage a new generation of bus users, children and young people will benefit the most.
Reflecting the changes made in Bristol, children between five and 15 years will be entitled to 50% discounts on all fares, while young people (those aged 16 to 21 years) and students, in possession of a valid First ID card, will be eligible for a 30% discount on all fares.
Up to two children under five years of age will continue to travel free with a fare paying young person / adult.
The changes to child fares and the introduction of discounts (on presentation of valid ID cards) for young people and students is a significant improvement on the current position.
At present children between five and 15 get variable discounts of between 25 and 35%, while young people have not previously been eligible for any form of universal discount.
From 6th July though, the cost of bus travel for this important demographic will be slashed, making the bus a much cheaper form of transport for them.
Responding to calls for greater value bus travel for families First will also introduce a Bath Family FirstDay ticket, priced at £8, and a Weston-super-Mare Family FirstDay ticket, priced at £7.40. These tickets will offer unlimited travel for one day in the relevant area for up to five people (maximum two adults or young people).
The cost of single journeys for adults, children and young people will also be radically overhauled across the whole area. In Bath (city area) and Weston-super-Mare (town) flat fares will be introduced with discounts for children and young people applied to these.
Fares for travel on regional services, ie those connecting major cities, towns and conurbations, will also be changed in many cases, with the amount charged linked to the distance travelled. Compared to status quo this means the cost of many single fares, for travel between towns and villages, will fall.
All return fares will be withdrawn. FirstDay tickets – offering unlimited travel in an area – will remain though, providing alternatives for those people who previously used return tickets. Some day tickets will also be reduced in price.
Talking about the changes, Paul Matthews, Managing Director, First West of England, says: “The announcement of these results brings to an end the discussions that we have been having over the cost of bus travel in the West of England.
“The changes being made in July follow on from the successful implementation of the Bristol fare review last autumn, and mean that many of the historic anomalies in the cost of bus travel in our region will, once and for all, be resolved.
“We have worked hard to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from the changes we are making, but accept that there will be a small number of people who may see their fares increase. This is especially so where flat fares are introduced as the nature of the beast is that a flat fare has to be set at an average point.
“Flat fares are however incredibly easy to understand, and rolling them out in Bath and Weston-super-Mare will remove one of the barriers that some people face when considering whether or not to use the bus. Once implemented people – be they permanent residents or visitors to the area – will instantly know how much the journey will cost.
“On the whole the story is a positive one. Children, young people and families do especially well out of the changes, something we hope they, and others, will welcome. Encouraging younger people to use public transport is especially important to us as it helps engender long-term patterns of behaviour. This is good for everyone.
“We will be working hard to communicate the outcome of the fares consultation process over the coming weeks to ensure that people know what is happening, and how they may personally be affected.”
In response to the announcement, Brian Allinson, Chair of the West of England Joint Transport Board, says: “This package of changes is hugely welcomed and on behalf of everyone in the area I’d like to thank First for the time and effort they have put in to gathering views and making the changes.
“They have made First bus fares much simpler and easier to understand which will be a help for everyone who travels by bus. Many people will be paying less than they are now. First have listened and reacted, now we all need respond by welcoming the changes and using the bus more.”
Fare changes at a glance for Bath:
- Simpler city zone, to replace the existing 1, 2, 3 zone structure,
- Flat fare of £2.20 to cover any journey on city services (within approximately three miles from the bus station),
- Return fares withdrawn,
- Day ticket reduced to £4 adults (from £4.40 peak / £4.20 off peak). Available any time of day. Family day ticket also introduced (£8)
- Week ticket reduced to £17 (equivalent cost per day is £2.43),
- Month ticket £66 (equivalent cost per day is £2.13),
- Annual ticket reduced to £650 (equivalent cost per day is £1.79),
- Ten-journey ticket retained (£20): offers ten single journeys in the city zone within a three-month period,
- Children entitled to 50% discount on all of the above,
- Young people and students with a First ID card eligible for 30% discount on all the above.
For services out of the local area, the cost of single fares will be based on the distance travelled, with one of five options available: £1.50, £2.50, £3.50, £4.50, £5.50.
Cllr Caroline Roberts,Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “We welcome this announcement from First which should encourage even more people to get on board the bus and help to tackle congestion so that more people can get around Bath and North East Somerset.
“We’re pleased that First has listened to people’s comments and acted upon them to deliver the kind of service they’ve asked for.”
To support the announcement of the new fare structures, First has developed a bespoke website: www.fairerfaresforall.co.uk. This website, which contains all the relevant information to support the changes, including details of new zones, maps along with a range of frequency asked questions.
A fare booklet, outlining the new structures, will also be made available to customers by 6th July.