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Monday, 22 March 2010

Free bus travel for rail passengers

This week we announce a trial which follows last year's conference on integrated transport. A this event Sir Moir Lockhead laid down a challenge to the bus & rail industries to do something much bigger than the current PlusBus bus add-on option for some rail journeys and find a way to package bus travel for all decent length rail passenger journeys.

From 1st April an important trial is taking place for three months. During this trial all rail tickets costing more than £25 where the destination is Bristol (Temple Meads or Parkway) will be valid for a direct journey on one of our buses commencing at either of those stations (and returning to it if it is a return ticket). The trial will seek to establish what modal shift much be achieved (from taxi or car pick-up) if the bus travel is "free" and included in the ticket.

In a full scheme, our aim is to see whether every rail ticket to every non-London destination over a certain price cannot include this bus travel. It would be funded by a token increase in the rail ticket price and the pot would be divided between the operators using the same mechanism as is currently used for PlusBus. A token increase is almost unnoticeable on the rail ticket prices but generates sufficient cash to compensate bus opertors for what is generally off-peak marginal extra business.

We see passengers arriving at unfamiliar rail destinations hesitant to use local bus services. We are sure that if it is "free" many more will take the opportunity to use them.

The trial is called the Bristol SuperBus and is launched this week.

We've also invited the other operators in Bristol to join the scheme. There's no pot to divide up for the trial but hopefully there will be if it is a success.



  1. An commendable idea as long as you are able to make a direct bus journey to your destination. It will be interesting to see what the take up is, and how easy it will be to work "on the ground". I am, however, wondering why, on the face of it, this appears to be going in the opposite direction to Plusbus, and why it is felt that it is necessary given the ever increasing range of Plusbus Perhaps when First Bristol and First Great Western have the details on their websites I shall understand more.
    I do hope that you will keep us updated on this and share with us, as far as you are commercially able, how it 'fares'.

  2. Good points:
    1. On the full blown scheme there would be unlimted travel in the local bus zone so a change would be possible. These zones are already set up at PlusBus locations.

    2. And also in the full scheme since every qualifying rail ticket would be valid on buses it actually reduces the number of ticket types on offer which makes life simpler everywhere from ticket offices to automatic machines.

    However, one step at a time !!

  3. I'll wait to see the fine detail of what looks to be a broadly sensible idea. The biggest problem with encouraging people to use buses when getting off a train is the lack of decent information.

    Traveline is an inconsistent disaster on the web. Many operator websites don't include maps or stop locations which is an immediate issue given few railway stations have clear signage to the nearest bus stops. Council websites are equally inconsistent with some being excellent and others hopeless.

    And just to pick up on the Bristol example I have just checked to see what First provide. They provide a diagrammatic map for the wider Bristol region and then a city centre map (which I think is really the council's map). All the central area stops are coded but there is no key to show you what route stops where. It is also not possible to determine the routes buses take through the central area. I see that Bristol City Council have expanded their maps of the centre and do provide a key - why do First Bristol not carry these maps or else provide a clear link to these documents?

    This is nuts - the last time I used buses in Bristol with a Plusbus ticket I had to guess where to get off and where to board a bus to my final destination. I overlapped by a 20 minute round trip into and out of the central area because I was unable to determine the sensible place to change buses. I was visiting a RHS Garden Scheme garden and when I said to the people hosting the visit that I was going to use a bus to get back to the station they insisted on taking me by car! I won't repeat here what they thought of the local bus service.

    Nice idea Leon but you need a quantum step in information provision and associated "wayfinding" at station to give people enough comfort for them to give it a go.

  4. Leon - one thing that would help a lot is on-board passenger information - i.e. the equivalent of London iBus. This is pretty much universal in mainland Europe - so why not the UK?

  5. Picking up on the threads suggesting making information available, I notice that the First Great Western and First Bus Bristol websites still have no mention of Bristol Superbus. It would be a shame for such an initiative to fall at the first fence because no one knows it exists.

  6. I agree with plcd1, and add to that the need for a proper transport interchange at TM and something a lot better than Parkway's pathetic windswept bus shelters with no information about where the services have got to or any way of finding out by phone - needs a phone number for First's control room and having that room manned all the time that services are running. Nice try, but just annoying unless you simply want to go from TM to the Zoo.

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