Pioneering trial backed by £23.5m from the UK Government will see bus fares slashed for an initial four-year period across Cornwall’s bus network

Left to right: Linda Taylor, Simon Goff and Richard Stevens launch the bus fares pilot

Cornwall Council is promising a revolution in its bus services after the launch on April 10 of the long-awaited bus fares pilot that will dramatically cut fares on all bus services in Cornwall. It follows the launch of the ‘Any Ticket, Any Bus’ multi-operator ticketing scheme in January.

Commercial fare-paying bus passengers will see their fares cut by, on average, one third for adults as part of the ‘Make Big Savings By Bus’ scheme. A county-wide adult day ticket valid on all buses in Cornwall will cost just £5 with weekly tickets priced at £20 and monthly tickets at £80. Young people under 19 also benefit from the scheme with similar fare deals that include unlimited travel weekly tickets priced at £13.50.

The scheme will run for at least the next four years and is being funded by a £23.5m subsidy from the UK Government. While details about the reimbursement arrangements with individual operators have not been disclosed, it is understood a reimbursement mechanism has been devised in partnership with local operators.

The scheme follows hard work in recent years to improve bus services in the county following the 2016 devolution deal agreed with the government.

There has been significant investment in the bus fleet by major operators Go Cornwall Bus and First South West and the council claims the county now has the youngest supported network fleet. Bus stops and other associated infrastructure have also been upgraded and many now feature real time information.

Cornwall is serious about the provision of good public transport

“Cornwall is serious about the provision of good public transport,” said council leader Linda Taylor at a special stakeholder launch event on April 11. She said the council has supported investment of £15m to improve bus services in recent years and introduced the Transport for Cornwall brand. This was backed by a £35m investment in new buses by the two major operators and rail improvements along the spine of the county that were “a vital step” in creating an integrated public transport network.

“Pre-pandemic we saw a 2% year-on-year increase in patronage as bus usage in the rest of the country was in decline,” Taylor claimed. She also highlighted passenger satisfaction scores of 93% in 2019. “With the relaxation of Covid restrictions we are seeing a stronger return to bus travel than the average patronage across the rest of the country.”

Cornwall can lead the way for the rest of the UK

Go Cornwall Bus, which is part of Go-Ahead subsidiary Go South West, is the county’s dominant operator and the lead contractor for Cornwall’s eight-year supported bus contract. Managing director Richard Stevens said that with the launch of the fares pilot: “Cornwall can lead the way for the rest of the UK.”

He revealed that between January and March 30,000 multi-operator trips had been made since the launch of the ‘Any Ticket, Any Bus’ scheme in the new year. “This is a true opportunity to change the way people perceive public transport and the way that they use public transport,” he added.

Simon Goff, managing director of First South West said the council deserved praise for its vision for buses. “We’ve made it easier to travel,” he said. “We’ve knocked that one out of the way and made it far easier to navigate the bus network.”

However, despite the good news surrounding the fares pilot launch, the introduction of the summer timetable on April 10 did see some cuts made to the supported network. The council claims total mileage will reduce by less than 1% overall and the changes have been made in response to demand.

“Our aim is to make the network more resilient and financially sustainable,” added a spokesperson for Cornwall Council.

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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