First launches bus fare consultation across its wider West of England operating area30 Jan 2014
Bus company First is launching a fare consultation with bus users – and non-users – across its wider West of England operating area.
Beginning on 1 February and running until 16 March 2014, the consultation follows a similar review of bus fares in and around Bristol last year, which led to changes being implemented in the city last November.
The latest review will look at all First West of England services outside of Bristol’s inner zone, with people in Bath, Cheddar, Chepstow, Chipping Sodbury, Chippenham, Clevedon, Dursley, Frome, Glastonbury, Midsomer Norton, Nailsea, Portishead, Radstock, Salisbury, Saltford, Street, Thornbury, Trowbridge, Wells, Weston-super-Mare and Yate, along with many other places in between, given the opportunity to voice their opinion regarding bus fares charged on First services.
The consultation, which will be known as Fairer Fares for All, will work in a similar way to that which took place in Bristol: people will be asked to fill in either hard copy or online questionnaires regarding their use of buses, sharing their opinions regarding the fares charged. The results of the questionnaires will then be analysed by independent transport consultants before decisions regarding any subsequent changes are made.
The online questionnaire will be found at www.firstgroup.com/fairerfaresforall from 1 February 2014. It will be accessible for six weeks from that date, closing on 16 March 2014.
To support the consultation process and ensure that customers are able to easily take part in it, a number of customer-facing road shows are also being arranged. These will take place throughout the region during February to ensure that people are aware of what is happening. Separate consultation events will be organised for the region’s councillors, which MPs will also be invited to attend. The specific dates of these events will be confirmed in due course.
In addition, we also intend to stock the hard copy questionnaires on buses, in libraries, in council one-stop-shops and in First’s own travel shops, to further aid people’s ability to feed back their thoughts. A freepost address will be included on the questionnaire to assist in the return of them to the company.
Talking about the consultation, Paul Matthews, Managing Director for First in West of England, says: “We completed an extensive consultation with bus users – and non users – in Bristol last year, asking people how they used the buses, what tickets they bought and what they thought about the cost of travel. Having analysed the results we implemented a series of radical changes to bus fares in the city last November. We are now looking at the wider West of England area and plan to review all of our remaining services. This is a mammoth task but it is an important one. We need to better understand how people use our buses, how frequently they travel and for what purpose. We would also like to know what type of tickets they’re buying at present and how they rate them in terms of value for money. All this data will then help us, and our transport consultants, determine the way forward.
“The Bristol review led to some pretty significant changes. Children and young people now get much bigger discounts on travel, while the whole structure of fares in the city changed as well. It’s too soon to say what sort of changes we may implement in the other parts of the West of England, but holding this consultation and learning more about how people use our buses is the first stage in the process.
“This consultation will run until 16 March 2014, after which there will be a period of analysis. Any changes made as a result of the review are likely to be implemented during the summer.”
Adding Brian Allinson, Chair of the West of England Joint Transport Executive Committee, says: “This is excellent news, buses play a vital role moving people around the area, and we need to make them as affordable as possible – the councils will be working with First to spread the word and encourage people to take part in this consultation. It is really important that as many people as possible take part in the consultation so we can be sure that people from more rural areas as well as villages, towns and edge of the city have their say.”
For more information about the Fairer fares for all bus fare consultation, log onto: http://www.fairerfaresforall.co.uk/ (NB the site will not be live until 1 February 2014).
The online consultation survey will go live on 1 February 2014, it can be found at: www.firstgroup.com/fairerfaresforall
For more information about First in West of England, log onto: www.firstgroup.com/westofengland.