Bus fare rises ‘will push many into poverty’ in Warwickshire

Stagecoach is the largest bus operator in Rugby
Stagecoach is the largest bus operator in Rugby

Raising bus fares will push families into poverty, damaging the economy and harming the environment, according to county officials.

Fare increases in Warwickshire have risen above inflation in 16 of the past 19 years.

Stagecoach, the county’s biggest bus operatorm has this year increased its fares by an average of 4.8 per cent – compared with an inflation rate of 2.5 per cent.

The county council is now considering writing to the Secretary of State for transport to urge him to address the problem.

A draft version of the letter, to be discussed by the county council’s cabinet today (Thursday), states: “The almost continual increase of fares in real terms has become an urgent issue to bus users when incomes for many have fallen in real terms over recent years.

“While there is growth in the number of people in employment, many of the new jobs created provide a relatively low income.

The high cost of public transport discourages travel and is an adverse factor in matching people seeking employment with the new positions.

“It is also of concern that the continually increasing cost of bus travel will discourage its use.”

The letter concludes: “There is a serious concern that continuing to permit fares rises above the rate of inflation will erode the use of bus services, push families into poverty, damage the local economy and harm the environment.”

Responding to the claims, a spokesman for Stagecoach said: “Our objective is to provide high-quality, affordable bus services for our customers.

“We want to encourage more people to use public transport and, as such, we work hard to keep any fare changes to a minimum. The fare changes we made this year were lower than the 3.6 per cent increase in costs experienced by bus operators in England.

“In addition, we froze the price online of our weekly and monthly tickets which are used by most customers.

“In Rugby, our monthly megarider ticket offers unlimited travel for £1.77 per day. We have also recently reduced the price of travel for passengers in Coventry.”

He added: “It is worth noting that the cost of motoring has outpaced the cost of living over the past 25 years, with fuel prices having risen 264 per cent since 1989. Reliability is one of the key drivers of shift from car to bus – delivering high-quality, reliable bus services is a shared responsibility between central Government, local authorities and bus companies.

“Supportive local authority policies, and improved bus priority schemes, are key to enabling operators to continue improving bus services for local people.”