First to hold consultation over Bristol bus fares

Bus firm First has announced it is to hold a consultation on the price of its fares and whether they represent value for money in the Greater Bristol area.

The announcement follows an online campaign signed by more than 2,600 bus users asking for the price of bus travel to be lowered.

Bristol MP Stephen Williams has joined the debate saying the city's economy is suffering because of the firm's prices.

First said it hoped to complete the review by the end of the summer.

'Cost pressures'

"I hope it (the consultation) is an admission that there is scope for reducing fares or at least creating a simpler fare structure," said Mr Williams.

"The major issues I'm hearing about are that fares are too expensive or if there are cheaper alternatives it's hard to find out what they are."

First said it acknowledges its fares "have often been a matter of public concern" and it will be inviting participation from bus passengers, the public, local MPs, councillors, and the mayor in its review.

"We are aware that the issue of fares in Bristol has often been a contentious one with a perception that the cost of travel here is significantly higher than elsewhere," said Justin Davies, regional manager for First in the South West.

"We want to heighten awareness about the industry and allow people to better understand the economics of running buses and the cost pressures we face," he said.

'Open and transparent'

Meanwhile, Bristol mayor George Ferguson has said he is to reverse planned cuts to night buses in the city.

He had suggested cutting a £40,000 subsidy for night bus services in his budget proposals.

But the BBC understands he has now struck a deal with First to keep night buses running.

First will now provide night buses on six nights of the week rather than two, but the service will stop by three in the morning rather than running all night.

Mr Ferguson has also welcomed the proposal by First to hold a consultation on fare levels and structure.

"This is a sensible response to the understandable concern by the travelling public, myself and other local representatives," he said.

Mayor Ferguson said the consultation "must be genuinely open and transparent" and he hoped it would deliver "some very significant improvements in value and passenger numbers".

He also called for Daniel Farr, who set up the online petition asking the Department for Transport to "force" First to reduce its charges, to be included in the process.

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