First West of England’s new space booking system is now available on the Y1 Chipping Sodbury to Bristol route, via Yate, on all Monday to Friday services.
The move follows the success of the bookable T1 Thornbury to Bristol service which has also been extended from peak times to all Monday to Friday journeys. This service also now offers wheelchair services the ability to book one of the two wheelchair spaces on board.
The innovative new facility is one of a number of new resources introduced since the start of the year to improve the travelling experience for customers. Other services include the company’s award winning App that 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 can make informed and safe journeys now that lockdown has been lifted again.
The pilot launched in July on the Brislington Park and Ride service and is also available on the 171/172 Paulton to Bath service via Midsomer Norton. It is being rolled out by First West of England in partnership with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA).
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.”
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.
First West of England Operations Director Chris Hanson said: “We work closely with local transport groups and the local authority on the provision of services and we were aware that there was a desire to have the bookable service available on the Y1 which is a similar busy inter-urban route to the T1. It’s also in line with a series of service changes that we have made to improve the performance of the Y1 which, as a result, is now delivering 95% punctuality.”
Karl Tomasin Mayor of Yate, said: “We are really pleased with this as it will mean people can phone or go online to book a seat – and people have been telling us they put off trying to use a bus because they are worried that it may be over full. This reassures them they have a space booked and will be empty enough to meet social distancing rules.”
With capacity onboard currently reduced due to social distancing, reservations for seats will secure a space on the chosen bus rather than a specific seat. Bookings can be made on a dedicated website, www.bookmybusride.com, with customers receiving an email booking confirmation that needs to be shown to the driver with an existing ticket/concessionary card if payment has not been made at the time of booking. 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.
Chris Hanson added: “ Because of the technical logistics of booking, we weren’t initially able to offer customers the ability to secure a wheelchair space on the T1, but it was something we always intended to do so I am really pleased that we have now extended the service especially in what is likely to be a busy run up to Christmas. If you are planning a Christmas shopping trip in either Bristol city centre, Willowbrook or Yate Shopping centre, you can now make your arrangements up to seven days in advance.
“The initiative is in its early stages and, if successful over the long term, 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. After lockdown we’re pleased to welcome back many passengers but we still do have capacity on-board reduced to support social distancing.
So 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 year. As life hopefully starts to return to some normality, we’re pleased to extend this exciting, new trial and take a major step forward in bus travel innovation.”
South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Environment and Strategic Infrastructure Cllr Steve Reade said: “I’m very pleased to see First pilot this new booking system in our area. It is particularly welcome currently as it will help reassure people that they will be able to safely catch the bus whilst adhering to social distancing measures. It will also add to users’ confidence that a bus will be available and help to increase patronage, so reducing the numbers of cars on the roads.
“It’s great to see technology used to improve public transport in our region and help people find more sustainable and convenient alternatives to travelling by car.
To reserve a seat on any of the bookable services customers can visit www.bookmybusride.com
For customers who are not able to make an online booking, a dedicated phone line is also being trialled and is available on 07866 977586, Monday to Friday from 09.00-17.00 (excluding Public Holidays). Confirmation of all phone bookings will be sent in the post and First recommends making phone bookings seven days in advance of your journey to allow time for this delivery.