TAS bus fare survey shows rises below inflation

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Many operators have managed to keep increases to below the level of inflation over the last two years, despite the huge rise in fuel costs, according to a new survey.

The survey of over 1,000 individual bus fares was undertaken by the TAS Partnership and built on similar work done in 2009. The survey showed the following:

  • the average fare charged for a typical three-mile journey had risen from £1.74 in 2009 to £1.91 in 2011 – an increase of 9.8% which falls below the 10.1% rise in the RPI over the same period;
  • bus fares continue to vary widely across the country, with the lowest fare charged for a 3-mile journey being 70p and the highest being £3.85;
  • the average urban fare was £1.89 and the average nonurban single fare was £1.96;
  • fares in urban areas tend to be lower than in non-urban ones;
  • municipal companies tend to have lower single fares but give lower discounts for day and weekly tickets; and
  • Stagecoach and National Express offer the greatest discounts on day and weekly tickets.

Scotland had the lowest urban and non-urban single fares, London the highest urban fares and the West Midlands the highest non-urban single fares. With the exception of the East of England, the average fares tended to be higher for non-urban operations.

The continuing growth in availability and use of daily and weekly tickets was also analysed. It was notable that in several parts of the country, a day ticket was cheaper than two singles. In all cases, a day ticket was substantially cheaper than three journeys. The pricing policies for weekly tickets also varied sharply, with savings varying between 16% and 33%.

Commenting on the report, TAS operations director Steve Warburton said: “Overall, we clearly show that demographics are the major influence on fare level. External factors leading to high bus use imply lower fares and this leads to a clear north-south divide in the results. After all it is a standard economic principle that high volumes engender lower prices.”

Predictably, the report warns fares are likely to rise sharply in 2012 after the BSOG cut in April.

“This alone is likely to drive fares up by over 5%, and then there is the pressure of other rising costs with inflation still above 4%,” added Warburton. “This level of increase is likely to lead to increased resistance amongst passengers, leading to the need for further fares increases. If we’re not careful, we could end up with a 1970s-style spiral of decline.”

The 100+ page survey report is available from the TAS Publications website, priced £65 + VAT (electronically) or £80 (hard copy). Visit www.taspublications.co.uk