Sheffield bus fares going up

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BUS fares are going up - after South Yorkshire’s biggest operator said it had been hit by ‘rising business costs’.

From April 1, single fares on First buses across Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster will increase by 10 pence - and a small number of single tickets in Sheffield will go up by 20 pence.

Day tickets will go up by 20p, and weekly tickets by 50p.

Daily and weekly fares are going up by the same amount on the Optio Orange and Optio Red routes between Halfway and Fulwood, and between Woodhouse and Hillsborough, where passengers can use a First or a Stagecoach bus with the same ticket.

First said the fare increase follows a 40 per cent reduction in fares last year after the introduction of the Sheffield Bus Partnership, in which all bus operators agreed to work together with South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive and the city council.

But bus users said the price hike could drive people back to their cars after a growth in passenger numbers.

Rival firm Stagecoach said its prices are under review.

Paul Lynch, managing director of rival operator Stagecoach Yorkshire, said: “We are currently reviewing our fares in Sheffield and will provide passengers with more information when the process is complete.”

Some First fares are going up eight per cent - more than double the rate of inflation of 3.3 per cent RPI - but First said the average increase will be 2.5 per cent.

The £2 maximum single fare in Sheffield remains frozen, and in Rotherham and Doncaster the price of a weekly ticket is coming down from £17 to £13 – a saving of nearly 25 per cent.

First said ‘rising costs to the business’ had resulted in the need for the rises, and added it is investing in new buses.

But Winnie Smith, of Arbourthorne Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, said: “I can’t see how First can justify such steep increases to single tickets. It will put more people off using the buses and send them back into their cars.”

Coun Ian Auckland, Sheffield Council’s opposition Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, called on the council to lobby First to postpone its increase.

He said: “Sheffield deserves excellent public transport and, if we’re going to achieve that, we need to get tough with bus operators.”

The rise comes as figures show full-fare-paying passenger numbers rose by 2.8 per cent in the first three months of the Sheffield Bus Partnership from last Autumn. And the number of buses on time improved by two per cent on the previous year.

Dave Alexander, regional managing director for First, said: “It is 15 months since our last price rise and, in that same period, a number of our fares have significantly dropped in price, particularly in Sheffield and because of the good work carried out by the Sheffield Bus Partnership.

“We now need to review our fares to meet the ongoing challenge of rising costs to our business and have kept the rise below the rate of inflation.”

Mr Alexander added: “Despite some of these price changes, the cost of travel on a First bus still represents great value for money, and customers can continue to travel from less than £1.50 per day.

“Our aim in 2013 is to continue to give value for money to our customers, and to continue to build upon the customer growth which will be further helped by the potential of significant investment in new vehicles.”

FIRST’S FARE CHANGES FROM APRIL 1

Sheffield:

£1 minimum single - fare frozen

£1.20-£1.70 singles – all increased by 10p, with a small number of specific trips rising by 20p

£2 maximum single – fare frozen

£3.40 First Day – increase by 20p

£11 First Week – increase to £11.50

£3.20 Optio Orange/Red Day – increase by 20p

£10 Optio Orange/Red Week – increase by 50p

60p Student single – increase by 20p

Rotherham/Doncaster:

£1.40 to £2.10 singles – increase by 10p

All other fares frozen

£17 Rotherham and Doncaster Weekly tickets reduced to £13

Countywide fares on routes such as the X78 between Sheffield and Doncaster - all frozen