23 January 2013

Dear Passenger

The latest news letter from Plymouth Citybus contains this letter:

Dear Passenger,

I wanted to take this opportunity to update you with some unavoidable changes to our ticket prices. Unfortunately from Sunday 10th February the cost of our fares will increase. On average our fares will rise by 4.5% but it is different for each ticket. We have not taken this decision lightly and believe we have kept the increase in price to a minimum.

We really do value each and every one of our passengers and want to be completely honest and upfront about the reasons why we've had to make this difficult decision.

Every year Plymouth City Council (PCC) reimburses costs only of us for providing free travel for OAPs so that we are no better or no worse off. Unfortunately, due to PCC budget constraints, and despite rising costs this has been frozen for the next year. This placed us in a difficult situation as a third of our passengers benefit from free bus travel. Our overall running costs have gone up by over 10%. The main cause of this comes from the Government's reduction in the Bus Service Operators Grant last year, meaning fuel costs have gone up by 40%, whilst other big cost increases came from the cost of insurance, up 20%. (chart below)

We have absorbed a huge amount of the above extra costs internally through good governance, investment and growth. To cover the remainder, without cutting the number of services we operate or the frequency they run, increasing ticket prices is our only option. We've made sure that there are only minimal increases to our most popular tickets and that children and young people are the least affected. Some tickets for shorter distances are coming down in price.

We always want to offer our passengers a fair deal on ticket prices and we hope you understand why we've had to make this tough decision. We have included a chart to show exactly where your fare goes below. If you have any concerns or questions about the new ticket fares please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0845 077 2223.

For a list of all our new day and season ticket prices, please click here.

Sincerely, Richard Stevens
Managing Director

We used to have 4 variations in ticket price, whereas now we will have 11. All single and return ticket prices will fall between the following prices:

  • Adult Single: £1.00 - £2.50
  • Adult Return: £2.00 - £3.50
  • Child/Student Single: 80p - £2.00
  • Child/Student Return £1.20 - £2.90

The full range of tickets is shown on their website

While any fare rise is disappointing its also inevitable, It is interesting to see them increasing the range of fares from 4 variations to 11 as this is much more how First seem to do their fares and allows a lot more control and flexibility to set their fares on individual routes and sections of routes. It will create a lot of confusion when the fares go up as passengers wont have any idea what the new fares are likely to be until they turn up on the bus and ask the driver. I am sure some passengers are in for a shock. Expect the local press to feature the anger prominently!

Of course there will be a lot of complaints. I am sure some will drag up the privatisation of Citybus as the reason fares have increased. Nearly all of these complaints will ignore the fact that prices of pretty much everything have gone up dramatically over the last year or so.  Asda have put the price of my preferred mouthwash up from £1 to £1.50 which is a lot more than 4.5% increase. They then have the cheek to offer a special deal: two for £2 – which is exactly what two used to cost me, but now I am “saving” a whole £1!

There was an interesting post on Omnibuses a short while ago which looked at the whole issue of bus companies highlighting their fare increases while supermarkets certainly dont highlight their increases. As always Omnibuses provokes lots of comments on all side of the arguments and is well worth a read. I am sure there is scope for bus operators to get more creative with their fares and special offers in the same way supermarkets do.

Citybus are certainly getting a lot better at promoting themselves on their buses which has to be a good thing. Their new livery is bright and bold you cant help but notice their buses, even if you dont like the swoops. Its good to see Citybus making more use of these bright red mobile billboards to promote themselves rather then try and sell us taxi services and new cars.

More like this…

©Mark Collins


and less of this…

Plymouth Citybus 039 T139EFJ

As always your comments are welcome. Are Citybus getting better at promotion? Are these new fares fair? Should our bus companies highlight every time they put fares up?

Plymothian Transit Recommends

  • Transport groups say drivers are angry that the new £15 million station will include only 22 bus bays; down from the current 31. Public Transport Experience
  • In this three part Looking back... photo special we are focusing on the well known Norfolk bus scrapyard - Ben Jordan's in Coltishall. Andys Bus Blog
  • colourful double decker buses operated by independant operators in and around Norfolk between 1978 and 1981. Andys Bus Blog


  1. Does this mean that some current £3 return fares will shoot up to £3.50 ???

    I note some of the season tickets particularly 1 zone ones are going up quite a bit... eg 1 zone 4 weekly £45 to £48.50... compare this to First 1 month equivalent £39.30, quite a difference if you live in an area served by both operators!!!

  2. Not necessarily. Ivybridge single and return fares are already £2.50 and £3.50 respectively. They are currently the maximum fares charged, even before the increase. It's not clear as to the extent of the increase for the current £2 single and £3 return. It would seem strange if city area were increased to £2.50 and £3.50, as this would give fare parity with Ivybridge!

  3. Totally agree with your comments regarding the external advertising. ANY operator should avoid promoting what is effectively 'the real competition' - once your passengers buy cars you have usually lost them for ever.

    The 'Dial A Cab' ad has got to be the worst I've seen in a while - are you sure it's contra-vision!

  4. I guess in simple terms, an AOA is an AOA to a bus company, especially at £1,000 a month.

    I paid £650 for my side adverts last year, good idea though, certainly had the desired impact.

    1. I understand the benefits of AOAs - cash to the operator, impact marketing to the advertiser - if I was PCB FD I wouldn't object to them! We had a few when I worked for Hants & Dorset back in NBC days - some good, some disgusting.

      My point is any advertising for cars and taxis is counter-productive - almost like saying "you can do so much better than travelling on this bus - get a car"

    2. Quite possibly Rich, but I don't think your average bus go'er would change to a taxi lightly.

      Where I live, it's £3.00 for a return or £17 by taxi, so even with a group of 4 it's still cheaper to travel by bus.

      You might find a few people who live closer to their place of work or home change to a taxi, but even so, their bus fair (before 10th) would be under £3.00 for a return anyway, not many places you can go in Plymouth by taxi for under £3.00?

      I took one from City Center - Devonport Park and that wa £4.50!

      Just my 2pences.

      Anon (OP)

  5. I believe we can't complain about these fare changes - Citybus did give us notice this would be happening in September!

    Back in the blurb with their new network launch:

    'The furthest distance single and return will not revert back to the pre flat fare prices until the new year.' - This suggests the current 'band 4' prices, e.g. Plympton, Derriford, Southway, Plymstock, Saltash etc will increase to £2.60 adult single, £3.20 adult return, and can't remember the child prices as in September 2011 they were made to a flat fare of £1 single/£1.50 return, off the top of my head I think a band 4 (Southway Plympton etc) to town child return was £2.30, a band 1 (e.g. Victoria Road to the Square, anywhere in Plympton to Mudge Way) was for a child 90p single £1.20 return. It seems as though it is more or less reverting to these prices, with the lowest child fare being 80p sgl £1.20 return. Thing is though, £2 for an adult return from anywhere in Plympton to Mudge Way seems very steep! Plus, £2 for an adult return from Mutley into town and vice versa - surely this is one of the most popular journeys Citybus customers make, why not make this trip £1.50 adult return?

    I do hope detailed fare tables are put online as given the 11 price bands these really will be needed, similar to the fare charts for the flat fare/'short hop' tickets. We were promised fare tables for the current 4 band fares (Sept 30th onwards) for each route though this never materialised. The printed timetables state under single and return fares 'go to plymouthbus.co.uk/fares' which I assumed would be a fare table for every route, but no. I really do hope we see proper fare tables this time!

    I think it's great Richard Stevens has been so honest and upfront about why the fares are rising, even better with a chart showing where your fare goes. I really don't know any other operator that would even consider doing this, and it is a refreshing change.

  6. I think your right Tom and it's 'fare' to say that £3.00 for a return from Saltash/Southway/Plympton/Plymstock etc was a bit of a bargain, but given that First have just raised their fares, a price increase from Citybus was inevitable.

    According to their press release, fares will rise by 4.3% which should make the furthest distance based fare around £3.10/3.15, outside of Ivybridge.

    My fare has been £3.20 before so it's not a big deal. First in Saltash offer a return for £3.65 and a single for £3.45 so any Citybus fare under that i'd still consider a reasonably good deal.

    The 43A has experianced a rapid increase in passenger numbers, no doubt due to the low fare - I hope for PCB's sake that these passengers decide to remain with you, but judging by the comments on their FB page total, I wish them the best of luck, certainly with their customer service, or lack there of.

    1. Thing is where I am Citybus fares have gone up 4 or 5 times now to Firsts 1 increase. Citybus are already a more expensive option to First even b4 this increase!!!


    1. I can only assume this is down to passengers not being aware of this option. Sounds silly though it is purely an assumption. I have noticed a few 'Still buying singles?' 'posters'/ads on the side of a few First buses with return/day ticket prices listed, is this a 'new' thing?

  8. I don't use First to buy any of their tickets, I was merely using the price of their returns as a comparison to the same ticket with PCB.

  9. It seems to me that Citybus are expecting their core area customers, ie estates in Plymouth to pay more so they can keep fares lower in Ivybridge to compete with First.

    It is a shame that more people did not use the UGOBUS services First offered in many areas of the city...there would then be more competiton and Citybus would think more b4 these endless rounds of price increases under Go Ahead!!!

  10. citybus seem to put the fares up at least twice a year, it would be interesting to know if anyone knows how many times have the fares gone up since they were bought by go-ahead?

    1. I think the earliest fare rise after being taken over by Go Ahead was June 2011, where single and returns went up by 20p, adult dayrider £3.50 child £2.50. In September 2011 the band 1 short journeys increased by 10p, a child flat fare system of £1 single and £1.50 return, and the cap on you can't buy child tickets from the driver on board the bus between 9.30AM Mon-Fri, which, obviously, proved very unpopular and was removed in March 2012. Another part of the March 2012 fare review was the introduction of the short hop/flat fare system. They originally proposed there would be no 'short hop' fares for young people which many people complained about and about a week before the new fares started they introduced short hop fares for children. (They can't really expect children to pay £2.50 for a return from somewhere like Plymstock to the Broadway or Plympton to Mudge Way!!)

      There was a fare review in September though this was reverting to a distance based fare table rather than the short hop/flat fare system so all fares either stayed the same or decreased so we can't really count this as an increase.

      As far as I know, since the GA takeover there have been four increases (including the one coming into place on Feb 10th).

  11. The answer is simple. Free bus passes should be taken away from those who don't need them. Short-term is does mean less bums on seats. But long term the loyal, fare-paying passengers amongst us are not having to pay extra to subsidise the people who don't require free transport. At the same time, the book-keeping process should be far easier for bus companies, especially when cash-strapped councils are unable to deliver the money for subsidised travel.

    IMO it is disgusting that some people drive from Bodmin or Liskeard, park in a side-street in Saltash and then use their free bus pass to avoid paying the Tamar Bridge toll or parking in Plymouth or the rest of their petrol expense. It makes a complete mockery of the whole system. OAP bus passes were not intended to be used like this. They were designed for genuine passengers in mind, who are less mobile and without access to a private car.

    If fare rises were purely the result of higher running costs (insurance, diesel, staff, new vehicles etc.) then I'm sure most people would be happy to pay a little extra. But this letter suggests that free bus pass holders are partly to blame for fare rises. Really the bus companies and government should seek to weed-out those who don't need these passes and are abusing the system. Someone who drives a new BMW and has a 60K pension simply does not need a free bus pass.

    1. It would make sense if that the council tried to use a criteria system - not that age is the trigger. Try using some methods of salary comparison, as they do with normal tax systems.

  12. http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/Plymouth-Citybus-invests-new-double-deckers/story-17971063-detail/story.html

  13. Full fare tables were uploaded earlier today:


    Current £3 returns are now around £3.20/£3.30. The £2.50 single/£3.50 return applies to Ivybridge to Plymouth on the 45 and cross city routes; e.g. Plympton to St Budeaux/Barne Barton or Plympton to Derriford/Tamerton and vice versa.

    The £2.30 single and £3.30 return applies to things like the City Centre to Estover Ind Est.

    Crownhill into town will be £2 adult single £3.10 adult return.

    Derriford Hospital into town will be £2.20 adult single and £3.25 adult return (ouch!)

    Barne Barton to City will be £1.50 adult single £2.30 adult return.

    City Centre to Milehouse/Mutley Plain is £1 adult single, £1.80 adult return.

    St Budeaux Square to the City Centre is £1.90 adult single, £2.90 adult return. From the Square to Milehouse is the same.


Have something interesting to say? Please share it here!

(Moderation is currently switched on so please allow a short while before your comment appears on the site. This is only to cut down on spam - not to cut out people who disagree with me!)