Residents in the West of England are getting a special Birthday gift starting today (Tuesday 1 August) - a month of free bus travel, part of a scheme designed to grow passenger numbers.
From today, all one million-plus residents in the West of England and North Somerset regions can travel on buses across the West’s 350-plus square mile network in the month of their birthday - completely for free. Passengers can make as many journeys as they like at any time of the day.
Metro Mayor Dan Norris says ‘Birthday Buses’ will help locals in the cost-of-living crisis and get more people using buses to help take polluting diesel and petrol cars off our streets.
All the main bus companies, including First and Stagecoach, have signed up to the first of its kind initiative, and the region’s WESTlink bookable minibuses will also offer free travel.
It is hoped new passengers will take advantage of the month’s free travel and that, over the course of the month, build new routines. Data collected during the year will help build a better understanding of how the scheme affected passenger growth and the wider demand for public transport.
Worked up in partnership with bus companies, the phased nature of Birthday Buses, with a twelfth of the population eligible at a time, will mean increased demand can be managed.
Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “I’m really proud of Birthday Buses. It’s a serious plan to get more and more people out of their cars and onto the buses long term. Because urgent behaviour change of an ongoing kind is key to building the local transport system West of England residents deserve, and to overcome the climate and ecological crises we face. With a whole birthday month to try the bus for free, I hope the public comes to like, and even love, bus travel and then continue to use it into the future. It is also a welcome boost to residents in this really very frightening cost-of-living crisis.”
Cllr Mike Bell, leader of North Somerset Council said: “The Birthday Bus offer represents an opportunity for our residents to choose a free alternative to the car and make the most of our transport system. Whether you’re using the bus to get to and from work or taking advantage of links to some of the fantastic attractions in our area, everyone will have the chance to use the bus during the month of their birthday. Investment in public transport to make it accessible for all is a key part of our commitment to building a greener future. Thanks to funding from the Department for Transport, we will ensure bus services become faster, greener and more coordinated than ever before.”
Less than one in ten regional commutes are currently made on public transport and the economic impact of congestion costs the West of England £300 million a year.
Birthday Buses has been backed by groups including Bus Users UK who have called the scheme “absolutely brilliant”.