TAS Partnership fares survey highlights value of weekly bus tickets

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TAS Partnership’s latest National Fares Survey (NFS) has claimed that bus passengers are getting a very good deal from weekly bus tickets.

The NFS, which analysed 1,047 bus fares across Great Britain from October 2017, said weekly bus tickets provide an average discount of 27% when compared with the cost of 10 single fares.

The report also found that regulated rail fares have seen higher rises than the bus sector. Rail fares have increased by 32% since 2009, compared to a rise of 24% for weekly bus tickets on average. Rail fares also rose by 5% in the last two years, more than double the 2% increase in weekly bus tickets.

Meanwhile, day and weekly bus tickets have on average risen by 23% below RPI and weekly tickets by 3% below RPI since 2009. Single bus fares bucked the trend – rising 6% more than RPI. However, TAS has found that single fares are purchased by fewer than 10% of passengers in urban areas.

The NFS showed the average cost of a weekly bus ticket is £17.09 – a 2% increase from £16.74 in 2015 but 24% higher than in 2009. £4.92 is the cost of the average day ticket – up 2% from £4.83 in 2015 and up 4% since 2009. Finally, the average cost of a single fare was £2.33 – an increase of 5% since the previous 2015 survey but 33% higher than in 2009.

A strong trend to emerge from the survey is that mobile ticketing is taking the lead over smartcards, with contactless payments proving popular. M-ticketing was available on 92% of the journeys covered by the survey – a 43% increase from 2015 – compared with 76% coverage by smartcards. Meanwhile payment by contactless bankcards was available for 30% of trips.

Matthew Moll, Senior Consultant of the TAS Partnership, said: “It is a good news story for the bus industry that weekly bus fares offer such good value for passengers and a testament to the bus industry, whose costs are ever rising, that increases in its multi-journey tickets are well below those of RPI and compare favourably to rail.

“At the same time, we have noticed an increasing number of operators not selling weekly tickets or top ups for them on-bus. While the intention might be to reduce time spent at bus stops, the effect may well supress demand for weekly tickets on certain parts of operators’ networks.”

Simon Posner, Chief Executive of the CPT, said: “This useful analysis by TAS highlights yet again that bus travel remains remarkably good value for money compared to other modes. It also shows that operators are investing heavily in new technology – contactless, mobile ticketing etc. – responding to passenger aspirations and the way we now live our lives.

“It is also important to recognise that operators are making these investments whilst facing the challenges of increasing road congestion, new legislation, and pressure to upgrade vehicles in light of the Government’s air quality requirements, together with ever rising operating costs. In short, this analysis shows that bus operators are continuing to deliver for passengers.”

Claire Walters, CEO of Bus Users UK, commented: “Buses generally provide excellent value for money and it’s good to see prices for weekly tickets are providing good options for passengers. However, we need to find new ways of helping those who don’t have access to smart technology and possibly only work a day or two a week – their travel costs will take up a much larger proportion of their income, limiting the options for people already at a disadvantage.”

David Sidebottom, Director of Transport Focus, said: “Bus passengers tell us their top priority for improvement is a better value for money bus journey. Bus operators need to make passengers feel confident that they are buying the best fare, alongside running a punctual and reliable service. One way they can do this is by publicising their fares and fare deals – we know that many passengers say they find it hard to get this information in advance.”