Norfolk bus users face big New Year fare increases
- Credit: Edward Starr Photographer
There are fears that more people will be 'priced out' of using buses after the region's largest operator announced a round of fare increases of up to 14pc.
Norfolk and Suffolk season ticket-buyers - particularly those aged from five to 19 - will be the hardest hit when First Eastern Counties hikes many fares from January 11.
Most single tickets will stay at the same price, but the annual tickets are going to rise by between 5.8-14.4pc.
First said it had kept the increase to as low a level as possible to cover cost increases including fuel, which it had no control over.
But Matthew White from Car Free Norwich said the larger increases would make it hard to change people's habits, by making public transport the less affordable choice.
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The campaign group is urging Norfolk County Council to apply for bus franchising, allowing for the regulation of bus prices.
Mr White said: "It's far too expensive really."
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He was particularly concerned about the impact on young people, saying: "It's important they [young people] are on board. If priced out of buses they are likely to get a car and that's a hard habit to kick if you are driving."
Those purchasing annual tickets will see prices rise by between 11.4 and 14.4pc - or an additional £50 to £80.
In addition, those wishing to buy paper annual tickets will be charged £20 more than those using mTickets on the First Bus app.
Hannah Winter, 25, has launched a campaign to try and improve bus services after being made late for work on seven occasions due to "poor" service.
The graphic designer said: "I don't think they can say that the service, facilities and what they offer as a company has increased to justify price rises. If they were to communicate what any price rises were being used for or any significant plans for radically improving the service that's the only real justification I can see for a slight price increase.
"To me it just seems mad that those earning the least in society are likely going to have to be paying more for a service that is continually failing them."
Harry Holmes said he would be paying an additional £1.80 for his weekly ticket from Poringland to Norwich.
The 18-year-old said he could not afford an annual ticket and less so now the price has increased to £500.
The teenager said it was a "joke" to ask customers to pay more for a bus service that he said was hardly on time or failed to turn up.
Mr Holmes said: "I would want them to rethink what they are doing. It has a knock-on effect for young people who do not have a car. Get services on time before you put prices up."
Chris Speed, head of operations at First Eastern Counties said: "Over the past 18 months we have expanded our bus network and invested in upgrading our fleet to improve public transport provision in the city and county with further plans to develop our offering to bus users over the coming months.
"These improvements show our commitment to delivering a sustainable bus network for local people."
Prices will rise on some day, week, month and 10-trip tickets for adults and young people across eight Norfolk bus zones.
Adult annual tickets also see a steep increase, with Excel Zone users forking out 10.4pc more for their ticket.
In all zones the 10-trip ticket, which allows passengers to travel 10 times in a 28-day period, will only be available on its mobile ticket app.
To speed up services, return tickets will no longer be available in the Great Yarmouth Town Zone, Lowestoft Town Zone and Explorer Zone.
Mr Speed said a wide range of ticket sales were available to suit how people wanted to travel, while changes had been made according to demand and location on the network.
He said: "Also we look at the distance people travel on a journey, as we have short routes and longer routes to further out destinations, so we need to adjust some fares to ensure we have an equilibrium of fares applicable to distance travelled for fairness."