Calls for First Bus to pass on savings to families

Bus company First, which operates the majority of bus services in Bath and North East Somerset, has been called upon to pass on recent oil-price falls to passengers. Conservative Councillors in Bath and North East Somerset have said the fact oil prices have fallen dramatically in recent months should be reflected in bus fares. The Conservatives have argued that the savings could particularly be used to help families by reducing children’s fares and introducing a children’s monthly travel card.

At a recent meeting of the West of England Partnership Joint Scrutiny Panel in Bath’s Guildhall, First was quizzed by Conservative Councillor Martin Veal (Bathavon North) over the price of bus fares. At the meeting, on the 12th of December, the Chief Executive from the bus company faced tough questioning about why savings have so far not been passed on.

Councillor Veal said:

“As families throughout the region are forced to tighten their belts, it is right that companies should pass on savings to customers. Bus companies should be finding ways of encouraging more passengers when cheaper petrol makes cars more attractive. It would be particularly good for their reputation if in these tough times the company helped out families instead of justifying high fares.”

At the meeting Martin asked First to justify its fares when consumers are seeing the price at the petrol pump fall. Petrol can now be found at as little as 86.9p a litre, down from 113.9p in some places earlier in the year. First said that the company bought its fuel in bulk when the price was higher. He also argued that the rate of exchange and tumbling strength of the pound against the dollar makes oil more expensive because a barrel is priced in US-dollars.

Councillor Veal said that these claims may have validity and accepted them as part of the reason, but argued that in tough economic times the company should be competing for business with the car. He also said that the exchange rate between the pound and dollar had not prevented petrol and diesel from falling at the forecourts.

Martin explained:

“We appear to be waiting a long time for fares to come down as the price of oil falls. At the meeting where I grilled First Bus, they gave several reasons why their prices haven’t fallen, but I’m convinced they must have room to manoeuvre.

“Currently, adults can save money by purchasing a monthly ticket but there isn’t this option for children. It would help us parents immensely if recent falls in oil prices were used to provide more affordable travel for children and to introduce a cheaper monthly bus-card. I’m simply calling on the bus companies to pass on oil-price savings. This would help families and boost First’s reputation as being community minded and fair on fares.”