A senior manager at West Yorkshire’s biggest bus firm insists the current system IS working - and it is driving up passenger numbers with “fair and reasonable” pricing and simpler ticketing.
Paul Turner, Head of Commercial for First West Yorkshire, was speaking after high level criticism of the region’s bus networks - and calls for a re-regulated, more streamlined, London-style operation with Oyster-style ticketing.
“Travelling by bus is good value for money and we’re already making improvements that’s providing simpler and more convenient ways to pay for customers,” Mr Turner told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“By developing our partnership work with the council and the combined authority we can make even bigger strides forward.”
He said customer numbers had gone UP in the past two years by six per cent. “Part of the reason for that growth is down to increasing value for money for our customers including price reductions, for example our Leeds day ticket is still only £4 compared to £4.60 in December 2013,” he said.
“Fair and reasonable pricing is important for customers and where we identify opportunities we’ll always look to see if we can attract new passengers such as the £5 Group ticket offer we have available at weekends in January and February this year.
“We have also simplified the numbers of products in recent years but at the same time introduced very popular specific tickets where our customers tell us they need them for example the £1 flat fare between Headingley and the University.”
He said technology was also playing a greater role in better bus ticketing, with the multi-operator smartcard Mcard and the recently introduced mTicketing, which allows payment via smartphone through the First Bus mTicket App.
And he hit out at the comparisons with the capital.
“London is often held up as a success for bus regulation with the rest of the country but it is not comparable to other areas because of its very dense population and concentrated employment - it can support a level of bus services which other cities can’t.
“The biggest factors driving bus use in London are population growth, decline of car ownership and lack of parking as well as ticketing developments e.g. Oyster.
“London is not immune to price increases either...according to DfT bus statistics fares in London have increased by 8% over the past financial year (2014/15 vs 2012/13) whereas in West Yorkshire fares have fallen by 9% over the same period.”
Nigel Featham, regional managing director for Arriva Yorkshire said: “As a company, we are committed to providing the best possible service for West Yorkshire. With local authorities and the Combined Authority we have developed an increasingly comprehensive network of services, put in place a modern and attractive fleet and value for money fares. Innovations like free on-board wifi, smartcard ticketing and greener buses are transforming the customer experience and customer satisfaction has risen to well over 90 per cent. Our aim is to build on this.”