Bo’ness bus fares to change over next six months

First is to change its zonal pricing system over the next six months
First is to change its zonal pricing system over the next six months
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First Bus is to pilot a new pricing scheme for services covering the Bo’ness area following a councillor’s campaign to have fares lowered.

The company says it is listening to its customers and admits current pricing needs to be “clearer”, not just in the Falkirk Council area, but across lowland Scotland.

The move comes after Falkirk North Councillor Craig R Martin launched a petition on change.org demanding First lower its fares in the district after research showed journeys of a similar length were cheaper in neighbouring local authority areas, like West Lothian.

A spokesperson for First Midland Bluebird said: “We are listening to our customers and recognise there’s a demand for a clearer method of fares linked to the areas we serve. We’re currently looking at implementing a new zonal system across the whole First Scotland East operating area, which covers not just Falkirk but across the Lothians and down to the Borders.

“Falkirk has been selected to pilot this scheme and we are undertaking research locally to determine what this will look like.”

First say the new prices will come in over the next six months with details of how it will work within that time period. The firm acknowledges that improvements are needed to the local service and said its prices are currently frozen to keep them competitive.

The spokesperson added: “In the Falkirk area we’ve already invested £5.1 million to improve our fleet, with free wifi, mobile ticketing and other improvements we’ve put in place to make bus travel more attractive and encourage people living locally to swap the car for the better quality, affordable public transport on offer.”

IT WOULD BE A ‘WIN-WIN’

Councillor Craig R Martin successfully had a motion passed by Falkirk Council last week to lobby the Scottish Government for re-regulation of national bus services to give councils more power over, or even run, local bus services.

First Bus has previously rejected proposals for such a move saying more regulation would threaten investment and be more expensive to run due to bureaucracy, however, Dr Martin disagrees.

He has pointed to cheap fares on publicly-owned Lothian Buses in Edinburgh as well as the city council receiving millions from its profits.

He said: “I don’t think it would cost more for councils to run services, as long as they are operated properly, the public would reap the benefits. Look at Lothian buses for a good example. It’s a great service and Edinburgh council, which owns almost all of Lothian Buses, received around £5.5 million from the profits this year.

“I know profits in Falkirk would be less than that figure, but these profits would be invested to deliver a much better service or be used for other council services so it would be a win-win situation.”

First Midland Bluebird managing director has also agreed to meet with reporters from the Journal for a question and answer session to address concerns from bus users in the area. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 10.

If you have a question you’d like us to put to Mr McGowan, e-mail it to us at editorial@falkirkherald.co.uk.