A ground-breaking Somerset Council fare capping initiative has achieved regional recognition for its success in getting more people onto buses.
As part of Somerset’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), the Council introduced a £1 fare for any single journey in Taunton in December.
Figures from Somerset’s main operator First South show a 24 per cent increase in bus use in Taunton since the £1 fare was introduced and last week the three-year trial scheme won the 2023 Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) Sustainability Award. There were also commendations in three other categories for Council initiatives.
Somerset Council received nearly £12 million in funding from Government after submitting an ambitious bid and its Bus Service Improvement Plan in 2021, which seeks to radically overhaul bus services in Somerset.
A targeted approach to spending was taken with the aim of getting more passengers on buses in Taunton, which in turn will strengthen the case for further BSIP funding to support similar initiatives in other towns across Somerset.
The £1 single fare applies to journeys in the Taunton ‘zone’, and includes the park and ride sites. You can check the map here www.somerset.gov.uk/roads-travel-and-parking/bus-it-you-know-it-makes-sense/ to see the area covered by the zone.
A separate Government initiative has seen fares capped at £2 for any single journey across Somerset until October, after which the cost will rise to just £2.50.
Other BSIP measures include evening services, mobility hubs and priority lanes.
Cllr Mike Rigby, Somerset Council’s Lead Member for Transport and Digital said: “The £1 fare has been a fantastic success with bus use up nearly a quarter in Taunton, and it’s great for the team that their efforts have been recognised.
“We’re not stopping there though, newly introduced evening buses and other measures such as priority lanes and better information will hopefully increase the trend even further.
“I know there is concern in other parts of Somerset that the focus is on Taunton – the best way we have of building a case for more funding to bring cheaper fares to other towns is to make a success of it. We felt the £1 fare in our County Town was the best way to achieve this.
“If we can show the Government we can increase bus patronage in Taunton we have a strong case to apply for funding to reduce fares in other towns, and we’ve done just that.
“Meanwhile, you can still catch the bus for just £2 for any single journey anywhere in Somerset!”
“By catching the bus, you can make a difference to the climate, to our environment and save money and wear and tear on your car – it really does make sense to Bus It.”
Somerset Council and the Somerset Bus Partnership have launched the ‘Bus It’ campaign to support the BSIP improvements, raise awareness of reduced fares and encourage more people to use bus services at a time when some routes have been lost or are under threat due to lack of patronage. You can find out more on the above link.
*Three other projects were commended at the CIHT Awards last week:
- The £8.3m Toneway Creech Castle junction improvements was commended in the Transport Project of the Year category
- Sedgemoor Regional Transport Model – Interactive Visualisation Toolkit was highly commended under innovation award
- Connecting our Garden Communities – Taunton Cycling was Commended under the sustainability award
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