Falkirk’s bus service will change from this weekend in a move operator First say will make travel “cheaper and simpler” for its customers.
In response to concerns raised over the local bus fleet last year, First Midland Bluebird is trialling a new ‘one zone one ticket’ scheme.
Starting on Sunday, First bus passengers will have unlimited travel anywhere within the zone for £4.50 with a First Day ticket and unlimited travel for £15 a week – £2.14 a day – with a weekly ticket.
The company says investment in its fleet will also mean a better standard of bus on the roads, addressing concerns from passengers regarding the state of the current one. New vehicles will have leather seats, more room for wheelchairs and buggies as well as free wi-fi.
The zone covers towns and villages from as far as Whitecross in the east of the district to Banknock in the west and Limerigg and Avonbridge in the north to Letham and Airth in the south. The only community within the Falkirk Council area not in the zone is Bo’ness.
First say the changes will mean “significantly” cheaper travel for a vast amount of its customers and will be up to £10 cheaper than before in many places, however, there will be a 10p fare rise on existing single and return tickets over £2.70.
Paul McGowan, managing director of First Midland Bluebird, said: “Customers have been asking for simplified fares and cheaper travel in that Falkirk area, and that’s exactly what we’re delivering.
“Late last year we promised we’d look at the differences in price between some of our operating areas in and around Falkirk and this one zone, one ticket option gives our customers the parity they asked for.
“We’re trialling this new zone and price until August for now to encourage more passengers to get on board with us and we hope to bring it in permanently if it proves successful. With around 80 per cent of all public transport journeys made by bus, we’re confident it will be.”
The new tickets will be available from Sunday and the pilot will run until August 31. Those with smart phones can buy tickets on First’s M-ticket app, which First say has proved popular with customers and speeds up boarding times, reducing queues.
Falkirk North Councillor Craig R Martin ran a campaign last year calling on First to lower its prices as he feared bus travel was becoming “unaffordable” for many hard working families. He welcomes the changes but is questioning why Bo’ness is not part of the zone.
He said: “I am glad that First have stuck by their word of reviewing their pricing structures and are starting a pilot in Falkirk.
“On the face of it the new daily and weekly pass looks fairly good value, however, it does not include the Bo’ness area. I am glad I ran the campaign and I hope these new arrangements will save bus users money and hopefully encourage more people to use buses.
“I will be writing to First demanding to know why Bo’ness has not been included as it is in the Falkirk Council area. The people of Bo’ness should enjoy the same fares as in the likes of Grangemouth and Whitecross.”
Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald also has an issue with the omission of Bo’ness. He said: “I very much welcome the new one ticket one zone service being introduced by First which will benefit regular users of the district’s bus services, however, I am concerned to hear that the new offer does not stretch to Bo’ness.
“I will be raising this issue with First Bus as a matter of urgency. Bo’ness has had more than its fair share of knocks recently and this is yet another blow to the town.”
A First spokesperson said: “Our new ticket zone covers key bus corridors in Falkirk and those used by the majority of our bus passengers. As with any new scheme we will be monitoring demand and usage closely and will certainly look to roll it out further to areas including Bo’ness should it prove successful.”
For full details of fare and service changes, visit www.firstgroup.com/scotlandeast.