Bus fares rise sparks outcry

First Bus is planning fare rises
First Bus is planning fare rises

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ANGRY bus users face fresh woe after hikes in fares were announced just a month after controversial changes were made to routes across the network.

First Hampshire & Dorset’s child single and return tickets will go up between 5p and 25p from December 30.

Many adult fares will also rise between the same amounts but some will remain the same or be reduced.

The changes will affect all routes in Portsmouth and across other parts of south-east Hampshire.

It comes as First reviews its fares across the south and looks to cover increased fuel costs and the price of keeping buses on the road.

As previously reported, the bus company changed most of its services across the area last month in a bid to improve the network.

But it has suffered backlash from customers. Charlotte Richards, 33, of Chedworth Crescent, Paulsgrove, whose daughter Alley, 11, gets the bus to go to and from Springfield School, in Drayton, Portsmouth, said she was furious at the move.

‘First has already made changes to routes which have left my daughter stranded,’ she said.

‘There are several times where she has got on the wrong bus and had to get off in places she doesn’t know.

‘Since the changes to First’s routes I have had to pick my daughter up around eight times. It means I’m spending more money in fuel. Though the price increase isn’t drastic it’s the principle that’s wrong.

‘I don’t see any evidence that the company has improved its level of service. It’s unfair on families across the area. It’s not right. Alley has no choice but to get the bus to school. If there was a suitable alternative then she would use that instead.’

Allen Parton, 54, is a Gulf War veteran who regularly uses buses with his disabled bus pass. Mr Parton, of Clanfield, who uses a wheelchair, said: ‘This will have a huge impact because it will put people off using the buses, which will lead to less of them being on the road.

‘Though I won’t have to pay more, this will hurt a lot of people. Families everywhere are already being squeezed dry.

‘Public transport should always be subsidised.

‘It’s something that everyone uses and needs.’

The prices of FirstDay Portsmouth Adult and Child tickets, FirstDay Hampshire +Ferry tickets, FirstWeek Eclipse and FirstNight Hampshire tickets will stay the same. The time people can buy FirstNight tickets in Hampshire will change from 6pm to 7pm to bring it in line with similar tickets provided by other bus companies.

Kim Smith, 35, of Totland Road, Bridgemary, said: ‘I use the bus quite regularly to get to the shops and doctor appointments in Gosport. I’m appalled. No one is happy about it. My friend has a family of five and it’s going to hit them all very hard.’

Karen Pateman, of Chichester Close, Gosport, said her son Liam Foster, 17, cycles to Fareham College because he can’t afford to get the bus.

‘The prices are extortionate already,’ she said.

‘It’s crazy the prices are going up.’

Steve Jackson, 39, of Hammond Close, Fareham, said he didn’t use buses any more because they were unreliable and it was easier to get to places in a car.

‘I remember fares already being high when I had to pay them,’ he said.

‘I can’t see how First can justify it.’

Marc Reddy, regional commercial and business growth director for First, said the firm had done everything it could to keep the increases to a minimum.

‘We understand no one likes it when fares go up and we have done everything we can to keep any increases to the absolute minimum,’ he said.

‘We are also committed to only reviewing fares once a year, the last time being a year ago. We have also taken steps where we can to freeze the price of some fares or season tickets to make things easier for our customers.

‘Fare reviews are necessary because they ensure that the cost of travel adequately reflects the amount it costs for us to run the buses, while also ensuring that we make enough profit to be able to be able to invest in our networks, staff and the vehicles we operate.

‘We believe that our season tickets continue to offer good value for money, allowing customers to enjoy unlimited travel within specific areas for relatively little.

For information about all the changes visit firstgroup.com/hampshire or call First’s customer services team on 0870 010 6022.