Unfair fares - SPC raises concerns with First Bus - Saltford Parish Council

Saltford Parish Council agreed to take the following action at its March 2022 meeting (draft minutes here):

ITEM 11 – FIRST BUS FARES: It was resolved that SPC would contact First Bus with regards to its unreasonable fares for Saltford’s residents, requesting that the company removes Saltford from its ‘West of England’ fare zone and instead extends both the Bristol travel zone and Bath travel zone to overlap in Saltford. The Council recognised that Saltford is in the centre of a profitable route, and that the village carried the burden of pollution, noise and congestion due to this. It was also recognised that the prohibitive and uncompetitive cost of First Bus ‘West of England’ fares to Bristol and Bath meant that residents were less likely to take the greener option of public transport when travelling to and from these cities.

Cllr Chris Warren, SPC Chair, met with Jacob Rees-Mogg MP on Friday 9 March to raise his attention to this issue. SPC thanks Mr Rees-Mogg for viewing the situation as ‘unfair’ on Saltford residents, and agreed to raise this matter with First West of England directors at his planned meeting with them soon.

This is not the first time that Saltford Parish Council has requested First Bus review its fares for Saltford, having approached them most recently regarding this matter in late 2019.

Saltford Parish Council’s open letter to First West of England’s Managing Director Doug Claringbold about this issue can be found below (sent 13 March 2022). Any response will be shared at an upcoming Saltford Parish Council meeting (agendas and minutes from SPC’s meetings can be found here).

13 March 2022 letter as follows:

Dear Mr Claringbold,

Saltford Parish Council continues to believe that First West of England appears to be exploiting the anomaly that, despite its proximity to both cities, Saltford falls between the Bristol Zone and the Bath Zone. Saltford being included in the West of England Zone instead of either or both the Bristol Zone and Bath Zone penalises residents to pay a hefty fare to reach both cities.

Saltford Parish Council approached First West of England in 2019 to request a review of the fare zone in which Saltford is situated. At the time it was informed that: ‘As is standard across the transport industry, lower fares often apply in built up urban areas, as the demand and capacity are available for customers making short journeys. This principle applies in both Bristol and Bath’.

Saltford sits between – and just outside – these two ‘built up urban areas’ and journeys to-and-from Saltford to Bristol and Bath are short journeys for which there is high demand from the village. This is specifically in reference to the X39 service, an ‘express’ route between the two main cities in the region, and heavily used to the point that buses are frequently full when leaving Saltford in the mornings. 

Saltford’s residents experience the pollution, traffic and noise that arises from First Bus using the Bristol-Bath corridor without experiencing the benefits of Saltford being included in the Bristol Zone, Bath Zone or both.

Further, Saltford Parish Council has previously been informed by First West of England that: Our Bristol Zone and Bath Zone are zones designed that are a fixed distance from the centre of Bristol or Bath and essentially cover the urban city areas. If we were to extend either of these to include Saltford, we would arguably need to extend the zones in all directions. This would have significant revenue implications and could even result in some existing services no longer operating on a commercially viable basis.

Saltford Parish Council disputes that by including Saltford in either or both zones would require the need to extend the zones in all directions. The services running through Saltford are existing popular commuter services and modifying the meeting points of the zones along the Bath-Bristol corridor would not affect their viability. Saltford residents travelling into either city would pay the same as someone travelling the entire length of the route. By comparison, moving the journey starting point 1 km in either direction would enable a traveller to make substantial savings travelling into one city or the other, whilst paying no more for a longer journey. Again, the Council requests that First Bus includes Saltford as a point where both zones meet, or alternatively that that First West of England treat the Bristol-Bath corridor as one zone and price according to a single zone or based on distance. The significant revenue implications’ as referred to previously of such action would be more than made up by an uptake of users in Saltford once fare pricing to our nearby cities is less of a financial barrier.

Saltford Parish Council stands by its previous statement that Saltford is being singled out and being treated as a means of revenue for your company without proper and fair consideration. Saltford Parish Council requests that fare zones are reviewed so that Saltford residents can benefit from cost-effective travel to its nearby cities of Bristol and Bath.

A copy of this letter has been given to Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and will be publicised on Saltford Parish Council’s website and its other communication channels for the awareness of residents.

Best wishes,

Cllr Chris Warren

Chair of Saltford Parish Council

Email copy cc’d to:

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP

Chris Hanson – First West of England Operations Director

Rob Pymm – First West of England Commercial Director

Manda Rigby – B&NES Council (Cabinet Member for Transport)

Sarah Warren – B&NES Council (Deputy Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Climate and Sustainable Travel)

Duncan Hounsell – B&NES Council Saltford Ward

Alastair Singleton – B&NES Council Saltford Ward

Chris Warren – Chair, Saltford Parish Council

Phil Harding – Vice Chair, Saltford Parish Council

Cllr Chris Warren, SPC Chair, meets with Jacob Rees-Mogg MP on 9 March 2022 to raise the issue of First Bus fares for residents and other transport concerns
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