First Bus to review fares after 3,000 sign petition in Bristol
FIRST Bus has pledged to review all the fares it charges passengers in the Bristol area.
The move comes after a petition started by a Bristol man unhappy with the prices being charged attracted nearly 3,000 signatures.
The review will see participation from bus passengers, the general public, local MPs, councillors, and Bristol mayor George Ferguson.
The bus company said the time scale of the review and consultation were being finalised with further details to be announced shortly, but hoped it would be completed by the end of the summer.
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It has also appointed a third party to oversee the process to make sure it is comprehensive.
The review was announced yesterday – four days before a planned demo organised by Daniel Farr, who started an e-petition eight weeks ago complaining about the cost of First Bus tickets.
Speakers confirmed for the demo, to be held outside Bristol's main bus station, include MP Charlotte Leslie, city councillor Mark Bradshaw (Lab, Bedminster), South Gloucestershire councillor Ben Walker (UKIP, Bradley Stoke North), and Green Party member Rob Telford.
Campaigners will be handing out flyers to give the public more information, and will be asking passersby to sign printed versions of their petition.
Mr Farr, 33, a graphic designer who lives in Anchor Road, welcomed the announcement yesterday but said his demo would still be going ahead as planned on Saturday.
"I am expecting quite a lot of people to attend to voice their displeasure at the cost of bus fares," he said.
"This all started when I went on Twitter to complain about First.
"I started an e-petition thinking it would attract about 20 signatures.
"It's now surpassed my wildest dreams with nearly 3,000 signatures in just over eight weeks since I started it.
"I'm just glad to be heard – I never thought I'd meet people from First Bus, local politicians and the mayor of Bristol.
"I think the fact that First has announced a review of fares is very constructive and hopefully we will have a good dialogue.
"I hope that we will see real significant change."
Justin Davies, regional managing director for First in the South West and Wales, said: "We are aware that the issue of fares in Bristol has often been a contentious one with a perception that the cost of travel here is significantly higher than elsewhere.
"This is frustrating for everyone and is something we have wished to tackle for some time.
"We want to heighten awareness about the industry and allow people to better understand the economics of running buses and the cost pressures we face.
"In return we want to hear from the public and their representatives, in particular what they think we could do differently to both attract more people on to buses and deliver the best possible value for money for our customers.
"This is why we are launching this review and consultation and we hope that as many people as possible will let us have their views.
"We are appointing a third party to work with us on this, and hope to complete the process by the end of the summer, using the findings of the consultation in our decision making going forward."
Mr Ferguson, who attended a press briefing about the review yesterday, said: "I greatly welcome the proposal by First to open consultation on fare levels and structure.
"This is a sensible response to the understandable concern by the travelling public, myself and other local representatives.
"Consultation must be genuinely open and transparent and will hopefully lead to some very significant improvements in value and passenger numbers.
"I ask that the principal campaigners led by Daniel Farr are included in the process and that it is considered as the first step in achieving a better contract in which the four local authorities have much more say in bus fares and other aspects of service."
MP for Bristol West Stephen Williams and MP for Bristol North West Charlotte Leslie also welcomed the review.