Local Labour Party campaigners have expressed concern over changes in fares that will be charged by bus giant First from 6 July 2014 and have called on the bus company to attend a public meeting in Radstock to discuss the new fares.
While some bus users may end up paying less under the new structure, many bus users in the Somer Valley will see big increases in their fares. For example, under the old fare structure, a return ticket from Midsomer Norton or Radstock to Bath cost £5.70. Under the new fare structure, return tickets will no longer be available, and the cheapest option for a return journey will be a “day ticket” costing £7.00—a 23% increase.
Anne Marie Jovic-Sas, Radstock town councillor and one of Labour's candidates for Radstock ward at the B&NES Council election next year said:
“Any plan to offer more discounts for younger or older people is welcome, but the proposed ‘charge-by-mile’ fares will have a disproportionate negative effect on residents in rural areas who rely on buses to travel to Bath or Bristol.”
Anne Marie’s running mate for B&NES in Radstock, Chris Dando, shares her concerns about how First has gone about their fares consultation and follow-up roadshows. Chris said:
“First has a slick PR machine that talks up its engagement with the community. But the response to their consultation earlier this year was only 1,800 people – out of a population of 640,000. To make matters worse, their series of roadshows on the issue did not include the Somer Valley area – which has a bigger population than Keynsham, where they did have a public event.”
Todd Foreman, Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for North East Somerset at the next general election added:
“There are winners and losers under the new fare structure and I'm concerned that many residents in Somer Valley are clear losers. The Somer Valley suffers from a serious lack of local industries and jobs, and many residents have to commute to Bath or Bristol for work. Many commuters making a return journey are facing a 23% increase and will be looking at paying £7.00 just to get to work for the day. That is a lot of money, especially to someone on the minimum wage of £6.31 per hour.”
First Group made £90.7 million operating profit from UK buses in 2012-13, contributing to £335 million in total operating profits for company as a whole. First currently has one-fifth share of the UK’s deregulated bus market worth over £4 billion ever year. The group’s chief executive, Tim O’Toole, recently enjoyed an 86% annual pay rise – rising from £1.1 million to almost £2 million.
Anne Marie and Chris are calling on First to attend a public meeting in Radstock on Friday 11 July to discuss their fares and services.
Anne Marie said: “I have personally invited First’s managing director, Paul Matthews, and commercial manager, Simon Ford to attend, suggesting they try catching the bus to get here.”
The public meeting will be held at 7.30pm, Friday 11 July, in Radstock Methodist Church Hall (side entrance, off The Street).
Pictured above are local Labour campaigners outside Radstock bus stop, including Anne Marie Jovic-Sas, Chris Dando and Todd Foreman