Mayor of the West Midlands responds to bus fare rises

The Mayor of the West Midlands has released a statement saying the increase in bus fares announced by National Express West Midlands was “disappointing” and said that West Midlands bus fares had been “frozen for six years whilst they rose elsewhere”.

The company made the announcement on Monday saying that most fares haven't been increased in the last six years. Their day ticket is currently cheaper than in 2017 and some tickets are still the same price that they were nearly a decade ago.

The company stated that price rises are now needed to protect the bus network in the face of rising costs. Fuel, electricity, parts and labour have increased by 25% in the past three years while the number of people using buses remains around 90% of what it was before the pandemic. 

Fares will rise as follows from 3 July:

  • A single ticket will increase from £2.40 to £2.70
  • An all day ticket is going up 50p from £4.00 to £4.50
  • A one-week pass will be £17.00, up from £15.00 currently.

The Low Fare Zone is also being removed, but people can beat the day-ticket cost increase by using SwiftGo and getting a reduction of 50p. Bosses added that they were also reviewing whether the operator will participate in the Government’s forthcoming £2 fare cap scheme.

National Express Group’s revenue went up 29 per cent last year, to £2.8 billion. In additional National Express buses drivers went on continuous strike in March 2023, before being awarded over 1% pay rise.

This is despite the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, and Transport for West Midlands announcing in October 2022 that bus fare prices would be frozen until 2025, meaning that people will be able to hop on and off the region’s buses all day for the same price they would have paid in 2013. The Mayor posted on social media to say:

"It goes without saying  that any increase in bus fares is disappointing, especially given the fact that we've managed to keep fares frozen for six years whilst they rose elsewhere across the country. However, mounting costs and inflationary pressure - alongside nationwide challenges in getting passengers backup to pre-pandemic levels - has left the West Midlands bus network increasingly vulnerable.

"The hard truth is that without National Express implementing increases in their fare prices, then nearly half our network - particularly those routes serving schools - would be at risk of cuts. I cannot, and will not, allow our bus network to be decimated like this."

"Many of course will be angered by National Express's decision to raise fares, especially given last year's freeze pledge, but the announcement needs to be understood in its full context. Fares have been frozen since 2017, and National Express's daysaver ticket remains the cheapest of many UK city regions and lower than it was in 2017.

"Alongside the adult ticket, a child's day ticket is 80p cheaper than it was in 2017 whilst an annual pass is more than £50 cheaper. These key fares are cheaper than our counterparts in Liverpool and Manchester and have decreased despite cost of living pressures facing the UK with inflation peaking at 11.1% late last year.

"Whilst others seek to play politics, my job as Mayor is to be honest and straightforward when faced with hard choices. So yes, the fare freeze we announced last year is no longer a commitment that can be maintained if we want to retain the current level of bus service in the West Midlands.

"It is never easy changing course, but regardless of how difficult the decision is, I will always do what I think is best for our region. That is why, alongside the decision by National Express as a private operator, we are continuing to look at all options for the future of our buses in the West Midlands - including the potential for public ownership.

"This however, would not have avoided the incredibly difficult decision after months of rising costs and depleted passenger numbers. Buses are the backbone of public transport in the West Midlands. which is why I remain committed to investing in the network, protecting it and keeping fares low."

Transport for West Midlands is currently in partnership with National Express West Midlands and other operators to try to improve bus services in the region, with version one established in June 2021, and version two last year. The upcoming third version of the partnership will be entered in July, which means the company will increase prices just before signing up to the conditions.


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