Bus op­er­a­tor slammed over fares in­crease

Middleton Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - CHRIS GEE

NEW Year’s price hikes for bus pas­sen­gers have been crit­i­cised as un­fair.

First Bus, which runs sev­eral routes through Mid­dle­ton – the 188, 415, 163, X63, 58/59, 42, 18/19 and 17 - has changed its fares from Jan­uary 2.

Rochdale coun­cil’s trans­port spokesman Coun Phil Burke con­demned the changes which will also see pas­sen­gers us­ing the mo­bile tick­et­ing app avoid price rises on cer­tain routes.

First Bus said they con­tinue to of­fer cus­tomers ‘the best value for money’ - when they buy in ad­vance via the app.

Coun Burke said: “Peo­ple al­ready pay a lot of money to travel around the bor­ough and into Manch­ester and as First Bus is the main provider, our res­i­dents don’t have much choice but to use them. Bus pas­sen­gers can’t af­ford price rises, but it’s a par­tic­u­larly bit­ter pill to swal­low when the ser­vice is so poor.

“I’ve re­ceived up­wards of 70 com­plaints re­gard­ing First Bus ser­vices this year from res­i­dents all across our bor­ough.”

First Bus has an­nounced fare rises of be­tween 10p and 30p for sin­gle tick­ets, plus rises for cer­tain day, night and sea­son tick­ets on their ser­vices.

Coun Burke also claimed moves to freeze price hikes on cer­tain routes - but only for users of the app - were un­fair on peo­ple who do not use smart­phones.

He said: “A lot of peo­ple in our bor­ough, par­tic­u­larly older bus users, won’t nec­es­sar­ily have ac­cess to apps, and it can’t be right that they are be­ing pe­nalised for this.”

First Bus man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Ian Humphreys said: “These changes are es­sen­tial to al­low us to con­tinue to op­er­ate the high­est level of ser­vice pos­si­ble for our cus­tomers. We have worked hard to keep any in­creases to a min­i­mum and con­tinue to of­fer cus­tomers the best value fares via our mTick­ets App.”

In a state­ment, First Bus added: “First Manch­ester is mak­ing changes to fares from Wednesday, Jan­uary 2 but is con­tin­u­ing to of­fer cus­tomers the best value for money when they pur­chase tick­ets in ad­vance of board­ing the bus via its mo­bile tick­et­ing app.

“Some fares have been frozen on the mTick­ets App, but most of the tick­ets pur­chased on-bus from the driver will change. The best value fares are be­ing of­fered to mTicket cus­tomers, mak­ing it the cheapest way to get around, which in­cludes the lo­cal fares on spe­cific routes.

“First Manch­ester in­tro­duced new state-of-theart ticket ma­chines in Septem­ber 2018, which has en­abled cus­tomers to pay for their bus tick­ets in new ways, in­clud­ing via con­tact­less. mTicket use is grow­ing at over 60 per cent year on year as peo­ple switch to more con­ve­nient op­tions.

“Data also shows that board­ing with an mTicket is twice as fast in com­par­i­son to pur­chas­ing a ticket from the driver, so the busi­ness is con­tin­u­ing to pro­mote mTicket take up by of­fer­ing the best value fares on its mTick­ets App.”

‘Peo­ple al­ready pay a lot of money to travel around the bor­ough.’

First Bus say pas­sen­gers who have the mTick­ets App on their phones will avoid price rises on cer­tain routes.

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