Friday, 17 February 2012

Single fares and smashing secrecy

Passengers who just need to make a single journey have a problem. Most bus companies don't want them to know how much their journey will cost until they are standing in front of the driver. It's been that way for years.

But would you shop in a supermarket that had no prices on the shelves, so that you only found out how much everything costs once you reached the checkout? Of course you wouldn't. So why should buses be any different?

Bluestar are starting to see the light, with the inclusion on their revamped website of a long list of sample fares. It's not every fare on every route, but it's a welcome start. What would be ideal though is the full fare charts for all their routes, so that every potential passenger can find out in advance how much their journey will cost. If the price is low, they'll spread the word. If the price is high, they can either choose alternative transport or they will at least be prepared for the fare, so that the driver doesn't have to bear the brunt of their shock. Or they might choose a better value day, weekly or monthly ticket instead. Surely it's win-win.

Velvet set a good example here, in publishing all the fares for all their routes on their website.

First don't publish their single fares, except for the current temporary special offer between Shirley and the City Centre, which could backfire as it is as good as them saying "We are normally more expensive than Bluestar where we operate along the same route". Neither do any of our other local bus operators.

The ones with a presence on Facebook have frequent posts from passengers asking for single and return fares, but the response times from the operators can vary wildly.

We think every bus company should be forced to publish their fares. Passengers have a right to know what they will have to pay before they decide whether or not to use the bus. Those companies that do publish fares benefit from enhanced passenger goodwill, while those that oppose transparency are judged accordingly. Let us and the bus companies know what you think.


  1. I am surprised why operators don't always promote the Solent Travelcard within their timetable booklets next to their own bus tickets. As to me you may be more inclined to travel by bus knowing that if you wanted to you could venture onto another bus co's buses, & would then probably buy your bus ticket from the operator you obtained the booklet from as you'd have their timetables to hand anyway.

  2. One of the arguments against putting fare tables on websites is that the customer might struggle to understand. Trent barton, and also Norfolk Green have full fares on the website, in a customer friendly manner which is easy to understand - so it can be done.

    Perhaps one of the reasons, is that Single Fares are often very expensive, when compared to Dayrover/Weekly tickets - so operators do not wish to put off new customers with high fares?

  3. First promoted their single and return fares to key destinations on the 3 route last year. To be honest having read the slagging Bluestar have had from their Waterside customers for charging the same price for one person to travel from Waterside to Southampton and return as it is for FIVE people to travel all day in Southampton boundary they need to seriously re evaluate their fares, then again it's a trick learnt from Solent Blue Line days - keep fares low where there is competition and charge silly fares where there is no competition.

  4. Years ago,Uni-link made things simple by having flat fares across their admittedly small network.Remember,it was just £1 from Southampton to the airport...what value! The fares were shown on the outside of the buses,and on roadside publicity etc.They also introduced smartcards about ten years before anyone else in the city.

    Not sure why bus operators are frightened to show their fares,as it helps show how cheap the bus is compared to taxis,for example.

  5. I would dig a bit deeper. I think the passenger should be informed of the fare stages too as sometimes if they get on say at the Cenotaph the fare is sometimes 50p cheaper if they get on at Greggs.

  6. The secrecy is quite extraordinary given that none of them would exist were it not for monstrous public subsidies. This issue is a gift for ambitious councillors the land over.