Falkirk to pilot new zonal bus fares

Bus fares in the Falkirk district are more expensive than comparative journeys in other council areas
Bus fares in the Falkirk district are more expensive than comparative journeys in other council areas

First Bus is to pilot a new pricing scheme for services in Falkirk following a councillor’s campaign to have fares lowered in the district.

The company says it is listening to its customers and admits its current method of pricing needs to be “clearer”, not just in Falkirk but across lowland Scotland.

Bus fares in Falkirk are more expensive than comparative journeys in other council areas

Bus fares in Falkirk are more expensive than comparative journeys in other council areas

The move comes after Falkirk North Councillor Dr Craig R Martin launched a petition on change.org demanding First lower its fares in the district after research showed journeys of a similar length were cheaper in neighbouring local authority areas.

A spokesperson for First Midland Bluebird said: “We are listening to our customers and recognise there’s a demand for a clearer method of fares linked to the areas we serve.

“We’re currently looking at implementing a new zonal system across the whole First Scotland East operating area, which covers not just Falkirk and Stirling but across the Lothians and down to the Borders.

“I’m pleased to confirm Falkirk has been selected to pilot this scheme and we are undertaking research locally to determine what this will look like.”

First say the new re-zonal prices will be rolled out over the next six months with details of how it will work to be shared within that time period.

The firm acknowledges that improvements are needed to the local service and said its prices are currently frozen to keep them competitive.

The spokesperson added: “It’s incredibly important that the feedback of our customers is not just taken on board but actively used to improve our services.

“In the Falkirk area we’ve already invested £5.1 million to improve our fleet, with free wifi, mobile ticketing and other improvements we’ve put in place to make bus travel more attractive and encourage people living locally to swap the car for the better quality, affordable public transport on offer.”

Dr Martin successfully had a motion passed by Falkirk Council last week to lobby the Scottish Government for re-regulation of national bus services to give councils more power over, or even run, local bus services.

First Bus has previously rejected proposals for such a move saying more regulation would threaten investment and be more expensive to run due to bureaucracy, however, Dr Martin disagrees.

He has pointed to cheap fares on publicly-owned Lothian Buses in Edinburgh as well as the city council recently receiving millions from its profits.

He said: “I don’t think it would cost more for councils to run services, as long as they are operated properly, the public would reap the benefits.

“Look at Lothian buses for a good example. It’s a great service and Edinburgh council, which owns almost all of Lothian Buses, received around £5.5 million from the profits this year.

“I know profits in Falkirk would be less than that figure, but these profits would be invested to deliver a much better service that suits Falkirk bus users or be used for other council services so it would be a win-win situation.”

First Midland Bluebird managing director has also agreed to meet with The Falkirk Herald for a question and answer session to address concerns from bus users in the area. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 10.

If you have a question you’d like us to put to Mr McGowan, e-mail it to us at editorial@falkirkherald.co.uk.