Bus It for ‘Less than a latte’ is the message from Somerset Council as it kicks-off a campaign to drive up passenger numbers on four key bus routes.
The campaign is being launched with news that £2 countywide fare are set to continue to December 2024 thanks to continued Government support announced this week.
The latest round of the ‘Bus It’ campaign – supported by bus passenger group the Somerset Bus Partnership, aims to support four at risk First South routes serving Taunton, Yeovil, Minehead, Dulverton and Wincanton.
Working with the bus operator, Somerset Council will be targeting communities along the at-risk routes, raising awareness of the services and highlighting the affordability of bus travel and the many other upsides of leaving the car at home.
Any single bus fare in the county still costing just £2 thanks to ongoing Government support – less than the price of latte from most high street coffee shops.
The Council has stepped in to subsidise the struggling 54, 58/58a, 25 and 28 services until the end of March 2024.
But, in the face of massive budget pressures, it cannot commit to supporting the service from April. Unless passenger numbers rise significantly and the services become financially viable for First Bus South, which operates Buses of Somerset, the risk the services may be reduced or stopped completely.
The following services all require additional financial support, which the Council can only provide temporarily thanks to the Government’s Bus Service Improvement Plan Plus funding (BSIP Plus).
- 54 Yeovil to Taunton
- 58/58a Yeovil to Wincanton
- 25 Taunton to Dulverton
- 28 Taunton to Minehead
First Bus South has signalled it will review the routes before the funding ends next year, taking into account new data on passenger uptake.
Somerset Council’s Lead Member for Transport and Digital, Councillor Mike Rigby said:
We’ll be appealing directly to the communities on these routes to safeguard their services by using them. The extension of the £2 fare is great news for today’s bus passengers and anyone thinking about getting on board.
All these routes link key towns and many village communities in between, but simply not enough people are using them.
In the current financial climate, the council will not be able to subsidise these routes indefinitely and that inevitably means people need to use their buses or lose them.
If you live in these communities and you’re commuting to Taunton or Yeovil by car it has to be worth your while to think about the savings you can make by using the bus instead with the rising cost of fuel compared to cheap bus fares – less than a latte to get to the centre of Taunton from Langport or Somerton.
If you do the maths, it’s close to a 50-mile round trip from Taunton to Minehead on the 28 which costs just £4. What else can you buy for that these days that offers that kind of value?
First Bus South Director James Eustace, said:
We’re working closely with Somerset Council to ensure we provide services that local people can rely on. We have been open about the challenges we’ve faced in Somerset, but we’re working hard to address reliability and punctuality through our new network timetable, as well as recruiting more drivers. We want to encourage people to use the bus as a cost effective, greener method of transport. We’ll be playing our part by continuing to improve reliability, helping our passengers get to where they need to be.
Somerset Council and the Somerset Bus Partnership launched the ‘Bus It’ campaign last summer to try and encourage more people to ‘Bus It’. You can find out more about it, along with the various initiatives on Bus it – You know it makes sense page.
Figures show that bus use has increased by 32 per cent across the county between January and June 2023 thanks to initiatives such as fare capping and the Bus It campaign.