Multi-operator bus tickets and £2 fare cap extended across West Midlands

The majority of single bus journeys in the West Midlands are to be capped at £2 until at least the end of October after National Express West Midlands confirmed it will take part in the Government’s scheme.

Single fares on all National Express West Midlands buses had been due to rise to £2.70 from next week, but following conversations with Transport for West Midlands and the Department for Transport, the operator – which runs around 90% of bus routes in the region - has confirmed it will be maintaining the £2 cap.

It means that fares will continue to stay low for passengers in the West Midlands, with the £2 single fare complimenting National Express’s £4.50 daysaver ticket - the cheapest all-day ticket in any city region in England.

Furthermore, this all-day ticket will soon be usable across all operators after TfWM revealed its plans to simplify fares and remove the extra charge for passengers using services provided by different operators.

Until now those swapping between services and routes provided by multiple bus companies had to pay a premium which could add an extra £5 to the cost of a four-week ticket.

But from Monday 3 July, passengers will pay no more than the cost of any single operator’s regular fare – making it easier to hop on any bus provided by any operator. As well as this, operators are also removing a large array of bus tickets from sale in an attempt to greatly simplify bus ticketing in the West Midlands.

Both moves have been agreed and delivered through the region’s updated enhanced partnership agreed between TfWM and bus operators – allowing services to be better coordinated. Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said:

“Following the difficult news last week of National Express West Midlands fare rises after six years of the fare freeze, I am really pleased we have been able to limit the impact both with the £2 single fare cap and our multi-operator tickets.

“With more than 200 million journeys a year, buses are the backbone of public transport in the West Midlands and key to cutting down car use, congestion, and carbon emissions. That is why we remain wedded to improving services for passengers, underlined by the ticket changes starting on Monday.

“The £2 single fare cap, the removal of our multi-operator premium, and the simplification of ticketing should all make a tangible difference to passengers – whilst we are also continuing to work with National Express on a commitment to protecting the existing bus network.”

The bus network in the West Midlands is under acute pressure due to the impact of rising costs and stubborn patronage numbers following the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake of these challenges TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority, has done all it can to support operators find sustainable solutions for their services.

As part of that effort, TfWM was successful last year in securing an £88 million one off grant to deliver a Bus Service Improvement Plan. Monday’s simplification of fares is part of that improvement plan. Cllr Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio lead for transport and leader of Walsall Council added:

“We know many are struggling with the cost of living right now so this fare cap and simplification of fares across our operators will help our bus users – especially those who use buses run by different companies.

“As well as doing what we can to keep fares as low as possible we are also investing in the infrastructure including bus lanes and priority measures, to ensure services are more reliable as well as good value, and introducing greener buses to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality in our towns and cities.”

Whilst operators have taken the decision to increase fares (in many cases for the first time in six years) from 3rd July to offset their rising costs, the West Midlands has managed to retain the vast majority of its bus routes despite a dramatic drop in usage during and since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The current network is at around 90% of pre-COVID levels, a level other regions in the country have failed to maintain. Bus fares in the West Midlands will remain among the very lowest in the UK and some fares, including the popular day ticket will be cheaper than they were in 2017 when a 52 week travelcard was £714 compared to £660 from next week.

To benefit from the upcoming changes, customers will need to buy the nbus ticket with cash, on swift or as a direct debt as debit card information provided by those using contactless payment cannot be shared between bus companies.


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