High bus fares 'not just First's fault'
A PRESSURE group has welcomed today's demo in Bristol against high bus fares – but says bus operators are not entirely to blame.
The group called the South West Transport Development which was launched in the run-up to the mayoral election says local councils must also take some of the responsibility for sky high bus fares in the Bristol area.
Mike Wheeler, director of the group, said: "We do feel that fares are too high but the process to reduce them needs to be properly thought through.
"It is not just First's fault that they are so high – the local authorities could have stepped in and improved fares by controlling bus subsidies much more effectively."
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He said part of the problem had been a breakdown in the relationship between First and the city council.
"When two parties fail to agree, then both should shoulder some of the responsibility," Mr Wheeler said.
In other parts of the country, bus companies were penalised by having their subsidies reduced if services did not run on time, Mr Wheeler added.
Another major problem has been the failure by councils in the Bristol area to push ahead with a transport authority to take control of routes and fares.
Some outlying councils – particularly North Somerset – have been against this because they are worried city services would improve at the expense of rural routes.
The peaceful demo, which will be held outside Bristol's main bus station from 12noon in support of a Make Fares Fair campaign which was launched by graphic designer Daniel Farr who has already collected more than 3,000 signatures for an online e-petition.
News of the demo was followed by a pledge from First to review all bus fares in the Bristol area.
The bus company said the timescale of the review had yet to be finalised but hoped it would be completed by the end of the summer.
Meanwhile, Bristol's former transport leader, Councillor Jon Rogers has launched a renewed attack of First for charging "excessively high fares".
Dr Rogers (Lib Dem, Ashley) who will be speaking at the demo, said: "First Bus do not have a good record when it comes to listening to the public."