Leeds bus firm facing flak for fare rise decision

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The biggest bus firm in Leeds has been hit by an angry backlash after it announced a round of New Year fare rises.

Bosses at First are hiking their ticket prices in West Yorkshire by an average of 2.8 per cent from Sunday, January 4.

The operator says the increases are needed to meet what it calls the “ongoing challenge” of its own rising costs.

But the move has been greeted with dismay by Coun James Lewis, chair of the transport committee on the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA).

Coun Lewis said: “It is disappointing that at a time when people are seeing widespread media reports of fuel prices dropping significantly, First has taken the decision to introduce this increase in fares that many people already consider expensive.

“People had been contacting me asking when fares were going to drop in line with falling oil prices and I have had to tell them that with the current framework under which buses outside London are run in this country, the combined authority has no say on these decisions.

“While I understand bus companies buy fuel at fixed, hedged prices, I am sure that West Yorkshire’s bus users will join me in calling for a commitment from First to reduce its fares in the future when it starts to benefit from the current [fall] in cost.”

Leeds-based transport campaigner Stuart Long also voiced criticism, saying the fare rises would cause particular “heartache” for low-paid people who need to use buses to get to work.

A spokesman for First said: “In order to protect our business from fluctuations in the oil price, particularly increases, we take a very long term approach.

“We typically ‘hedge’ our fuel purchases many months and often years in advance.

“Therefore, we are not currently benefiting from the low prices at the fuel pump that motorists are enjoying.”

One of First’s adult single fares will be rising from £1.20 to £1.30 – an increase of about eight per cent.

A number of its fares, including the £1 ‘short hop’ in Leeds, will remain unchanged.