First West of England has launched the first ever booking system for spaces on its buses.
From today, customers travelling on the Brislington Park and Ride service will be able to book their space ahead of their journey as part of a new pilot. This will be extended to journeys on the 3a service from Batheaston to Weston in Bath from 3 August (also bookable from today) and on the T1 service between Bristol and Thornbury from 10 August (bookable from 3 August). Bookable buses on these services will be renumbered as 3b and T1b to denote that booking is available.
This innovative new service comes as First continues to find ways to use technology to improve the experience for its customers. It follows recent changes to First’s app, which now enables customers to track the location and seat availability of their bus. Along with social distancing measures on its buses and an enhanced cleaning regime, it forms a package of measures to ensure customers are able to make informed and safe journeys on First’s buses and comes at a time when the government has changed its advice to make it clear that anybody can use public transport.
The ‘Book my bus ride’ initiative is being pioneered by First West of England in partnership with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and is believed to be the first system of its kind operating on regular, scheduled bus services in the UK.
Bookings can be made up to seven days in advance of the journey, with the flexibility of being able to reserve a space, subject to availability, right up to 15 minutes before departure. Customers will have the option of buying a ticket with their reservation or booking at no extra cost if they already have a pre-paid First Bus ticket or are a concessionary card holder travelling after 9.00 am.
With capacity onboard currently reduced due to social distancing, the reservation will secure a space on the chosen bus rather than a specific seat. Bookings will be made on a new, dedicated website, www.bookmybusride.com, with customers receiving an email confirmation that is either scanned onboard or shown alongside an existing, pre-paid ticket.
Bookings will be possible for all Monday to Friday journeys on the Brislington Park and Ride and 3b, and all Monday to Friday morning and afternoon peak time journeys on the T1b, with just under 50% of the socially distanced capacity being bookable and the remaining seats left available for customers to board and pay as normal without a booking.
West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “This is a terrific new service which will help people know they can rely on the bus and give them more reasons to leave their car at home. I’m determined to keep our region moving and make sure the West of England leads the country on using technology to improve our public transport – giving people greater choice and flexibility in how they travel. This new service once again shows that the West of England is leading the way on finding new ways to move around.”
James Freeman, Managing Director at First West of England, said: “Here in the West of England we are pioneering new ways of travelling by bus to make it the smartest way to move around the region.
“By introducing ‘Book my bus ride’ to selected routes in Bristol, Bath and Thornbury, we aim to reassure customers that they can secure a space on their chosen journey. The initiative is in its early stages and, if successful, we hope to integrate the advanced booking technology into the First Bus mobile app, as well as the onboard ticketing software, to revolutionise both the customer and driver experience.
“As the way we all live and work adjusts to the ’new normal’, so must public transport too. We’re pleased to welcome back many passengers as more shoppers and commuters return. With capacity on-board currently reduced to support social distancing, we hope this new optional booking service will help to reassure customers, particularly those travelling at busy times, that it is now possible to secure their space on certain routes, before even getting on the bus.
“We’d like to thank all our customers for their ongoing patience and cooperation over the last few months. As life starts to return to some normality, we’re pleased to now bring forward this exciting, new trial and take a major step forward in bus travel innovation.”
To reserve a seat on the Brislington Park and Ride and 3b services, customers can visit www.bookmybusride.com where booking will be open from 1800 on 27 July. Bookings for the T1b service start on 3 August.
For customers who are not able to make an online booking, a dedicated phone line is also being trialled and is available on 07866977586, Monday to Friday from 09.00-17.00 (excluding Public Holidays). Confirmation of all phone bookings will be sent in the post and the bus operator recommends making phone bookings seven days in advance of your journey to allow time for this delivery.