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news: A £2 fare cap for England

This weekend, the government announced that all adult single bus fares in England (outside London) will be capped at £2 per journey from January next year, potentially offering a boost to bus networks. ITP has been working alongside Cornwall Council and the Department for Transport on the Cornwall Bus Fares Pilot, which slashed fares by an average of 33% in April 2022, so we know first-hand how reducing fares can impact bus travel.

Whilst this is a positive step in helping people struggling with the cost of living, the practicalities of introducing a £2 capped single fare by the end of the year will be challenging, with certain questions remaining to be answered:

  • How will this work in practice, who will administer it and how will operators be reimbursed?
  • What will happen to fares for children and young people?
  • Will there be a cap on funding or will this operate for the full three months regardless?
  • The work required to update software and systems could be considerable. Is this achievable within the available time period?
  • How will this affect existing fares schemes, particularly those with existing capped fares?
  • Will operators have the capacity (vehicles and drivers) to cope with potential additional demand?
  • What will happen in April when central government funding ceases? Will operators need to raise fares even higher than they are now to survive?

Having worked on similar projects, we understand the challenges involved in implementing fares initiatives, and will work closely with our clients over coming months to help support this initiative. However, we shouldn’t just assume that a £2 fare itself will attract people to use the bus. The initiative certainly needs to target new users, rather than merely providing some existing users with a cheaper fare for a few weeks. Marketing will be crucial – discounted fares alone will not be sufficient. The whole experience of bus travel needs to be positive to encourage continued longer term use – this includes reliability, comfort, convenience and customer care.

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Capped £2 bus travel will be a useful experiment. Let’s make the most of it in helping to show how useful buses can be. To find out more about how our team can help, get in touch.


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