Stagecoach fares go up - but bus is still cheap travel

STAGECOACH say they have been forced into a round of fare increases, but claim bus travel is still better value than commuting by car.

A spokesman said: “Rising costs and reduced public sector investment have forced up fares for passengers, but taking the bus still offers better value than commuting by car.”

Fares in Fife, Dundee, Angus and Perthshire will rise by an average of five per cent from Monday.

The rises compare with a 14 per cent rise in the annual cost of motoring reported by the RAC in November 2011. It now costs an average of £6,689 – or 55.7 pence per mile – each year to own and run a car in the UK.

An independent survey last year found that Stagecoach continues to offer the best value bus fares of any major bus operator in the UK, with prices up to 20 per cent lower than other companies.

In addition, a survey carried out by Stagecoach in 2012 revealed that commuters could save an average of £150 per month - or £1,700 per year - just by switching from the car to Stagecoach bus services for their daily commute.

Stagecoach also recently launched the country’s first long-term nationwide discounted bus travel scheme for jobseekers, whereby holders of a Jobcentreplus Travel Discount Card will qualify for half-price single and return tickets on Stagecoach’s 6,500 buses in the UK outside London.

However, Stagecoach said that continued rising costs – including labour, energy, fuel and insurance costs - and reduced public sector investment in bus services, has resulted in the operator having no choice but to increase some fares.

The annual Cost Index, compiled by the Confederation of Passenger Transport, shows that Scottish bus companies saw their overall operating costs rise by 4.7 per cent in the 12 months until December 31. In addition, the Cost Index shows that Scottish operators have seen fuel costs alone rise by 11 per cent in the past year.

The latest statistics releases by Transport Scotland show that, over the past five years, operating costs for bus travel have increased at a faster rate in Scotland than in the rest of Great Britain, excluding London. However, ticket prices have risen more slowly in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has capped the budget it uses to fund the free concessionary bus travel passengers scheme, putting pressure on fares and bus networks for all bus users in Scotland.

Charlie Mullen, managing director of Stagecoach East Scotland, said: “We understand that this will be frustrating for our passengers. We have had to take some difficult decisions but we have done our best to keep fare changes to a minimum.

“We are facing continued rising costs in a number of areas of our business and we are seeing reduced public sector support for bus services as local authority budgets continue to be squeezed.

“We have worked hard to keep fares down for those who rely on the bus the most. As the cost of motoring continues to rise, our bus services continue to offer a greener, smarter and better value way to travel and we are committed to re-investing income from fares in further improvements for passengers.”