Cheap bus fares to continue - for the time being
First is extending its cheap bus fares in the majority of the Falkirk area, but more people need to use them for it to remain long-term.
The operator brought in the Falkirk First Day and Falkirk First Week tickets, costing £4.50 and £15 respectively, earlier this year for a trial period ending on August 31.
First Midland Bluebird has now announced the changes will remain in place until the end of the year.
The reduced packages resulted in more people using the local services it provides. It brings savings of up to £10 for passengers through the unlimited all-day and weekly travel which means it costs people who use the buses regularly for work just £2.14 a day.
Areas including Denny, Maddiston and Avonbridge have seen substantial savings where day and week travel to and from Falkirk would have previously cost £7.80 and £28.60 respectively. Closer to Falkirk in areas like Grangemouth, Polmont, Larbert, Bonnybridge and Tamfourhill prices have fallen from £5.60 per day and £22.30 per week.
However, the transport firm says it still needs an increase in users on the initial growth in sales to make them a viable long term option.
Managing director of First Midland Bluebird Paul McGowan said: “We’re pleased with the response from customers to our First Day and First Week deals, which we launched for a trial period in March and I’m very happy to be announcing that we will be offering this unrivalled deal for longer.
“These simplified and cheaper fares are what the Falkirk travelling public have been asking for and a big step forward in our plans to encourage more people on to buses.
“We’re still evaluating the positive impact of this new pricing structure with a view to making these fares permanent, but we need to see a further increase in uptake if we are to make them a lasting feature.
“So we’ll continue to monitor uptake until the end of 2016 before making a decision on the fares package going forward and I would encourage the public to show their support for this by making First buses their preferred travel option.
“I’d like to add that we’re very grateful to passengers who have provided great feedback on the fares package and to local media who have helped hugely to publicise the changes.”
The trial period did court some controversy over its geographical reach, however, as while Bo’ness is in the Falkirk district, it was not included in the trial period for cheaper fares sparking anger in the community.
First now say it is considering extending to all areas if the price is “sustainable”.
The biggest savings have been for residents in Banknock where prices have been more than halved, providing a welcome boost requested by the local community.
The new tickets will now be available until December 31 via First Scotland East’s popular M-ticket app for smartphones allowing passengers to buy tickets online and show their phone on boarding to the driver.
M-tickets help speed up boarding times and keep queues to a minimum. Passengers can also continue to buy tickets from the driver when boarding the bus.
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More to follow on this story in this week’s paper.