Bus user numbers rise in Somerset
The government may have introduced a £2 cap on bus fares this spring, but Somerset Council beat them to it. Last autumn they introduced a flat £1 fare for the Taunton area. That was followed by new evening services and a “Bus It” campaign to promote the use of buses.
The slight fly in the ointment at the start of 2023, was an increase in cancellations. This led to an exchange of letters between Cllr Mike Rigby and First Group (South) Managing Director Simon Goff. Cllr Rigby who is Somerset Council’s Lead Member for Transport and Digital explains: “I’m really pleased to see clear improvements have been made by First Bus South in services across Somerset after I had flagged a number of concerns from the public – chiefly, there were too many cancellations and disruptions due to a shortage of drivers.” He added taht the improvement had been rapid: “In February, we saw almost six percent of the total bus mileage across Somerset cancelled. By the last week of March that had reduced to 0.8 per cent.”
The latest figures for bus usage suggest the investment both locally and nationally, in the service is starting to pay off. Figures show that since the introduction of a £1 fare passenger numbers have increased by nearly 25 per cent in the Taunton area.
Similarly, following the introduction of the Government £2 fare cap, passenger numbers have increased by around 14 per cent across the county. The Government has announced that funding to keep the fare cap at £2 will be provided through to the end of June. What the figures have demonstrated, is that when you provide a regular bus service at times that are useful for people, they will use it. If we are to be serious about net zero then more investment in public transport and not less, will be essential.