Essex bus fares set to rise again

THE number of people using public transport in north Essex could fall after a bus company increased its fares for the second time in less than a year, it has been claimed.

THE number of people using public transport in north Essex could fall after a bus company increased its fares for the second time in less than a year, it has been claimed.

First buses has announced increased prices across its services with some single journeys going up by more than 20% in the Colchester area.

The local bus operator said the new costs would kick-in from tomorrow, saying it was responding to running costs that were “well-above” the inflation rate.

The changes will see 10p added to adult single fares in the Colchester 'inner area', whilst adult single fares from 80p to £1.90 in the Clacton, Harwich and Colchester 'outer area' will increase by 20p.

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The changes mean people catching a return bus from Mersea Island to Colchester will have to pay £4.80, up by 20p.

However, the company's Essex week ticket, giving unlimited travel on all First's bus services in the county, has been dropped from £28 to £25 and the price of some journeys will remain unchanged.

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Bob Dorr, operations director in Essex, says: “We want people to travel by bus, so having to increase fares is not a decision I take lightly.

“The last increase in adult fares was back in December last year but since then we have continued to face increases in the costs of running the business that are well above the rate of inflation.

“However, for regular travellers our day and weekly tickets continue to offer good value for money, particularly for those people who use them to travel to and from work, and then use the bus to go out in the evenings or at weekends.”

But Michael Allen, chairman of Colchester Bus Users Support Group (C-BUS), said: “Any increase means that the passengers have to find more money to pay and it is likely, in some cases, they will make less journeys and make alternative plans.

“I think you will find fares from Mersea are more than on other routes because there is no competition with First, like there is on the Brightlingsea route, and that is why they can charge so much for Mersea.”

However, he said making fares cheaper was unlikely to tempt people out of their cars onto buses because they would not break their habits.

Paula Whitney of the Colchester branch of Friends of the Earth, said despite the increased fares people could cut costs by using saver bus passes, also helping the town to avoid gridlock.

“I am seriously trying to tell people it is a pain to take a car around town - I am 13 years without a car and would not want to go back to using an ordinary car again,” she said.

Mrs Whitney suggested there was a need for a family-style bus ticket like those available on trains and a half priced option for youngsters on the borough cards.

“Most people in the major villages have reasonably good bus service they can use but the only way to travel about is to use the borough card.

“It is £70 for a month for the outer zone, but if people don't know about them they will be losing out heavily by paying each day.”

n Fares on First's bus services in other parts of Essex will also increase from this Sunday.

Full details of all the changes can be obtained from the First travel shop in Queen Street, Colchester or by telephoning First customer services on 01206 366911.

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