Figures show more people in Somerset are choosing to ‘Bus It’ following the introduction of lower fares and evening buses as part of Somerset Council’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP).
Somerset Council’s Lead Member for Transport and Digital, Cllr Mike Rigby this week welcomed the increase, and also praised First Bus for improvements to its performance following an open letter last month in which he voiced concerns about cancellations and the quality of service.
Since the introduction of a £1 fare for a single journey in Taunton, along with evening bus services on some routes, both funded by BSIP money, as well as a sustained ‘Bus It’ campaign by Somerset Council and the Somerset Bus Partnership, passenger numbers have increased by nearly 25 per cent on First Bus/Buses of Somerset services in Taunton area.
Similarly, following the introduction of the £2 fare for a single journey in Somerset, funded by the Government’s Help for Homes scheme, passenger numbers have increased by around 14 per cent across the county. This week the Government officially announced its intention to continue the £2 fare across the country until 30 June.
Roads Minister Richard Holden said this would “help ensure people can get around easily, no matter where they live – connecting them with work, education, doctors’ appointments as well as friends and families.”
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 here, along with the various initiatives: Bus it – You know it makes sense (somerset.gov.uk)
Cllr Rigby said:
This is all extremely positive and welcome news, as we continue to work hard with the Somerset Bus Partnership and operators to drive passenger numbers up.
I’m also really pleased to see clear improvements have been made by First Bus South in services across Somerset after I had flagged a number of concerns from the public – chiefly, there were too many cancellations and disruptions due to a shortage of drivers.
The feedback I’ve been getting is that the operator has moved quickly and decisively to ensure people in Somerset have the bus service they need and deserve. There is indeed a marked improvement. In February, we saw almost six percent of the total bus mileage across Somerset cancelled. By the last week of March that had reduced to 0.8 per cent.
Managing Director of First South, Simon Goff said:
We acknowledge that it has been a challenging time across Somerset and in response we have been putting measures in place to drive an improved service.Working closely with the council, we can see that the actions we have taken so far are making a big difference and I am pleased that we have been able to restore the consistent level of service our customers have come to expect from us.
It can be challenging to make rural commercial bus services financially sustainable but with great value fares available on the Somerset bus network, there’s never been a better time to give the bus a try.
Even swapping the car for one or two journeys a week, it can make such a difference to the environment and to your pocket.
Mr Goff underlined that there is currently a national shortage of drivers which is causing challenges at depots across Somerset. He said the operator was working hard to fill these vacancies.
*Those interested in applying to First – rates start from £12 per hour for trainees increasing to £13 per hour once qualified, plus overtime enhancements should call the Recruitment Manager on 07814 138361.