BLOG: Daniel and Goliath - How one man's tweet rocked First Bus
Nothing really winds people up in Bristol more so than transport.
Slow traffic speeds, pricey buses, a lack of cycle safety - everyone has their grievances with the city’s messy system.
But how many of us do anything about it?
This week’s news that 33-year-old graphic designer Daniel Farr’s petition on bus fares has led to First Bus announcing a fare review shows how one person really can make a difference.
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Dan’s petition - now signed by almost 3,000, including Bristol mayor George Ferguson - started with the kind of groan you hear daily.
Using Twitter, Dan complained openly about his experiences with First’s late buses and perceived overpricing.
Fortunately, it was spotted by a Green Party activist, Ashley council seat contender Rob Telford, who was willing to push Dan in the right direction.
The online petition was soon established and quickly gathered support from a public tired of disproportionate fares and politicians keen to jump on the bandwagon.
Watching Dan surrounded by MPs and councillors from all the main parties at his Make Fares Fair demonstration at the Malborough Street bus station on Saturday , it’s clear he has struck a chord.
Speakers at the protest were quick to throw scorn on First for “rip off” fares alongside their receipt of part of the £10 million pot of subsidies paid to bus operators a year from Bristol City Council.
And First rightfully attended the demonstration to speak with Dan and offer an insight into how congestion and cuts from council funding affect their fares.
But the debate about fares at the protest soon turned to what can actually be done to control the price of bus travel in the city.
In a truly cross party consensus, there was, once again, the demand for an Integrated Transport Authority - like Transport for London.
Nobody disagreed with the idea of a new body which would have powers to set fares and routes through the local authority.
Unfortunately though, for people in the Bristol area, their city is divided into four local authorities which would all need to play ball.
Getting the approval of neighbouring councils to create a board which could dictate their transport rules, is a contentious issue.
But it’s a goal that can and should be achieved with the clout of the new mayor.
George Ferguson has spoken again and again on the subject and may be the key that unlocks the necessary powers.
His potential influence stretches around the region and as far as the offices of Whitehall.
We have already seen a City Deal which outlines new powers over retaining business rates and funding for rail projects.
But now its time the coalition made good on their promise of offering a reward to cities which chose to elect a mayor.
A second City Deal devolving transport powers in the Bristol area is essential to moving towards a truly integrated and cost-effective transport network.
Attending the protest and backing Dan’s worthy cause is all very well, but politicians need to keep up the pressure and continue to work together.
Until then, Dan’s campaign will continue to push fares and transport further up the agenda.
Let’s hope his single Tweet can make the difference.