In March 2022 Saltford Parish Council wrote to First Bus requesting fairer fares for Saltford’s residents.
SPC resolved under item 11 at its March meeting to request the company remove Saltford from its ‘West of England’ fare zone and instead extend both the Bristol travel zone and Bath travel zone to overlap in Saltford.
Saltford Parish Council published its open letter to Doug Claringbold, Managing Director of First Bus West of England (shared with Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and Dan Norris, Mayor of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA)). A copy can be found in SPC’s article ‘Unfair fares – SPC raises concerns with First Bus’.
Response from First Bus West of England (received June 2022)
SPC requested a response from Doug Claringbold, Managing Director of First Bus West of England, which was received in June.
In his response, Mr Claringbold stated that fares are an issue that First Bus are currently reviewing with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) as part of the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP). This has provision for both infrastructure and revenue support for bus services, and included examining bus fairs and how to reduce the cost for bus users.
In his response to SPC’s specific request regarding zones, Mr Claringbold stated that ‘it is fair that we charge users who travel the furthest a higher fair than those closest to city centres’ and that ‘changing Saltford’s status would have a knock on effect to other areas on our network’.
Examples of changes to the fare structure by First Bus since 2019 were provided by Mr Claringbold, including a 2-trip ticket which discounts the return fare to Bath from £6.60 (2x£3.30) to £6.30. He added that First Bus have also introduced a £3.70 adult single ticket on the M-ticket app which allows travel on the full length of the X39, giving a discount from the £4.50 on-bus price to Bristol, which also has a £6.50 return, offering a discount on the £7.50 day ticket price on-bus.
Mr Claringbold added that First Bus West of England will wait for the results of WECA’s decisions on how to move forward with the BSIP and how this may shape fares in the future, and that he would keep Saltford Parish Council updated as to when any decisions are made.
SPC resolves response at its July meeting
SPC discussed the response received from Mr Claringbold at its July 2022 meeting under item 12. (The agenda and draft minutes of the July 2022 meeting are available on our website).
SPC viewed that Mr Claringbold’s response did not adequately address the request made for Saltford to be included in the Bristol and/or Bath travel zones, or address the disparity in fares paid by Saltford residents to travel to Bath and Bristol. The Council resolved to contact Mr Claringbold again for a response.
SPC also agreed to invite him to meet with the Council and residents to discuss the matter.
It was agreed that SPC’s response and invitation would be copied to Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and Dan Norris, Mayor for the West of England Combined Authority.
SPC response to First Bus West of England (sent July 2022)
In its written response to Doug Claringbold following the July meeting, SPC noted that a ‘£3.70 adult single tick on the M-Ticket app which allows travel on the full length of the X39, giving a discount from the £4.50 on-bus price to Bristol’ , as shared by Mr Claringbold, meant that people travelling from Bristol to Bath and vice versa pay the same as Saltford residents who travel a shorter distance to either city. SPC raised that this was in contrast with Mr Claringbold’s statement ‘It is fair that we charge users who travel the furthest a higher fare than those closest to city centres’. Saltford’s residents are closer to Bristol than people who live in Bath, yet they pay the same rate as those living in Bath to travel by First Bus to Bristol (and vice versa), and as such Saltford PC has asked Mr Claringbold for clarity on how this approach by First Bus is fair for Saltford residents.
Saltford Parish Council also quoted Doug Claringbold’s recent statement in a WECA newsletter article about ‘Tap On Tap Off’ in its response. In the article Mr Claringbold states that Tap On Tap Off ‘encourage people who may not currently use buses to give them a try, especially at a time when alternatives to the car are not only the environmentally friendly option, but the most cost-effective too’. Saltford Parish Council raised that in his response to SPC, Mr Claringbold stated that ‘we have made some changes to the fare structure since 2019. We now offer a 2-trip ticket which discounts the return fare to Bath from £6.60 (2x£3.30) to £6.30.’ SPC requested a response on how bus travel for Saltford residents can be the most cost-effective option when it costs £6.40 to park for four hours a Bath (B&NES Council) car park i.e. 10p more than the price of a return trip for one Saltford resident by First Bus. Saltford PC pointed out to Mr Claringbold that if more than one person is travelling it is more cost effective for Saltford residents to use a car for shopping and leisure visits. As such the Parish Council requested clarification on how using First Bus is ‘cost effective’ and ‘encourage[s] people who may not currently use buses to give them a try’ for Saltford residents when paying West of England ticket zone prices.
Saltford Parish Council again urged First Bus West of England to include Saltford in the Bath and/or Bristol zones, or determine an alternative solution which appropriately reflects the distances travelled into each city in line with First Bus’s own stated principles around distance.
Saltford Parish Council stated that retaining Saltford in the West of England Zone was not appropriate and unfairly penalised residents as well as discouraging use of bus travel by its residents.
SPC invites Managing Director of First Bus West of England to Saltford
Saltford Parish Council has invited Doug Claringbold to meet Councillors in Saltford, along with residents, to discuss this matter further.
Saltford PC appreciates the interest that residents have expressed regarding this matter.
Saltford Parish Council will share any response received from Mr Claringbold or First Bus West of England. Please keep an eye on SPC’s website and social media.