Stephen Williams, the Lib Dem candidate to be the regional mayor of the West of England, has slammed a planned hike in bus fares and outlined his plans to combat the rising cost of travelling by bus.
The fare rise, due to take place on 2nd April on First Bus services in Bristol, is the second in less than a year. It will see a journey of less than three miles rise from £1.70 to £2 and a longer single go up from £2.70 to £3.
The election of the West of England regional mayor will be followed by the awarding of new transport powers by central government, which will give the West of England combined authority the ability to establish Transport for London-style franchise bus services. These powers will allow the region greater control over setting standards for operators, ticketing, branding and service frequencies.
Having already made introducing franchise bus services a top priority for his campaign, Stephen Williams has promised to:
- Introduce a cashless bus payment system, to allow people to pay via debit card, a smart phone, as well as other dedicated pre-paid cards and concession passes.
- Review Park and Ride sites and services and late night buses to the towns and villages around Bristol and Bath, to help people leaving the theatres and other attractions within the region late into the evening.
- Introduce greater integration between bus routes and railway stations by making sure that the three mainline rail stations are well served by buses, as well as opening a new rail station at Charfield, in the north of the region, which will be supported by a dedicated bus link to Wotton-under-Edge.
- Move to cleaner fuel and electric powered buses.
The Liberal Democrats will be publishing a full regional manifesto at the end of March.
Stephen Williams said:
“Residents are facing yet another painful fares hike. It is shameful and it is now time for a new approach to fares. My plans for the region will ensure our bus operators deliver a better deal for passengers.
“Bus services have been upsetting people for decades in the West of England. In my 25 years in politics in Bristol they have been a constant feature on the doorstep and in my mail. They are costly compared to many other cities. They don’t run late enough to the towns and villages in Gloucestershire and Somerset. In most cases they only take cash, slowing up the journey and causing hold ups along the route for other people. As they are all diesel propelled they contribute to poor air quality in both Bath and Bristol.
“Up until now, there has been very little that local politicians can do about these problems. If elected, I will take full advantage of the power to set franchises for bus services and insist on integrated and smart ticketing. Any bus company that wants to operate in the region will have to agree to the terms and conditions that benefit the needs of residents and not simply to line their own pockets.”