A jobseeking commuter wants answers after he was turfed off a bus halfway on a journey into Leeds when a driver refused to accept his £50 note.
Gerard Murphy, 59, was trying to buy a £14 Weekly Rider ticket on the First Bus 97 route from Butcher Hill to Leeds Bus Station when he presented a £50 note and was told to sit down while the driver checked whether he could accept it.
The bus set off but Mr Murphy said around two miles later at Headingley the driver called him forward, gave him his note back and told him to get off to have the note changed and then wait for another bus.
First Bus has confirmed it is looking into the matter following the complaint that Mr Murphy issued through Metro.
Mr Murphy, who was travelling into Leeds to search for jobs and do his shopping, claims he was left embarrassed, running late and made to look like a fraud by the incident.
He said: “It’s legal currency anyway, why should they be able to refuse it? There were two or three people on the bus that knew me and to be thrown off as if I was trying to dodge my fare was embarrassing.”
After asking whether he could stay on the bus, so that he could get his money changed at Leeds Bus Station and then pay, he was refused.
He claims he can prove the note was valid as he used it in a supermarket after leaving the bus but was told by customer service staff that he was turned away because drivers can’t tell whether such notes are forgeries when he complained at the station later on Thursday.
Mr Murphy, who walks with a stick due to issues with arthritis, added: “We are not all thieves and we are not all tendering large currency that’s forged – the drivers should be issued with pens to determine whether the currency is legitimate.”
With a fleet of over 1,000 buses, around 3,500 staff and a network of over 200 routes serving Leeds, York, Calderdale, Huddersfield and Bradford and reaching out to the Wharfe Valley, Greater Manchester and Lancashire, First is the biggest bus operator in the region.
A spokesman for the firm said: “I’m sorry to hear about the difficulties experienced by Mr Murphy. We’ll certainly be investigating the specifics of the complaint, speak to the driver and respond to Mr Murphy.”
He said First Bus encourages customers to carry change, while note readers are not practical on a bus network although the firm is working towards a number of smartcard initiatives “which will provide a solution more similar to the Oyster-style smartcard in London”.
TRANSPORT FUTURE BID
First Bus is hoping to bring about a public transport revolution in Leeds through its “Routemaster” plan.
The transport giant wants to introduce a series of new double-decker buses that make use of smartcard tickets similar to London’s Oyster system as well as road infrastructure changes to speed up journeys.
The scheme has been labelled an alternative to Leeds’ £250million New Generation Transport trolleybus project at a fraction of the cost.
First has been pushing to win public support through Routemaster exhibitions.