Try-before-you-buy offer to tempt new passengers onto the region’s buses

Transport for West Midlands will be offering thousands of people try-before-you-buy bus tickets as part of a £19 million Government-funded scheme to drive up bus passenger numbers and protect services

The incentive scheme will be offered to employers to invite staff, who currently travel by car to work, to sign up for a Swift travel card or account to get a period of free or discounted bus travel, similar to new customer deals offered by streaming TV companies such as Netflix.

It is hoped that this latest scheme will encourage many more people to switch to bus travel long-term and help keep more bus services on the road - and fewer private cars – reducing traffic congestion and pollution across the West Midlands.

Further to employer schemes there will be additional groups who will be targeted to offer access to public transport such as care leavers and apprentices. Employers and organisations can find out how to take part through the TfWM website.

A recent study by the Centre for Cities highlighted how British cities are lagging behind many leading global cities when it comes to commuting by sustainable travel. But bus patronage in the West Midlands is now above pre-Covid levels and this latest incentive scheme is part of a package of measures being introduced by TfWM, and bus operators, backed with Government funding, to make bus services even more attractive to commuters:

Many large employers, including NHS Trusts, already benefit from a discounted ticketing scheme for staff from National Express West Midlands

  • Simplified nbus fare system meaning customers can catch any bus from any bus operator with their day, week or month tickets.
  • Recruitment of more transport safety officers to tackle anti-social behaviour
  • Expansion of subsidies to keep ‘at risk’ and socially necessary services running Continued investment in bus priority measures such as bus lanes to improve reliability
  • Investment in new zero-emission buses including through the Coventry All Electric Bus City programme

TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), will use part of the £88 million Bus Service Improvement Plan funding awarded last year to support the new incentive scheme.

As well as supporting bus services, the funding is designed to encourage more passengers on board and, in reducing car use, cut traffic congestion and contribute towards meeting the #wm2041 target of a net-zero carbon region within two decades. Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, said:

“Buses are the backbone of our public transport network providing vital services for hundreds of thousands of people every day.

“I’m really pleased therefore that patronage on our buses is now above pre-pandemic levels, however we still need to do so much more to get people onto public transport to tackle congestion and the climate emergency.

“That’s why we’ve launched this new scheme to entice more people onboard our buses, and I would urge anyone offered the chance - both lapsed and first-time bus customers - to take part and give the bus a go.

“This new scheme is of course just one part of a wide range of improvements we are bringing to our bus network with investment in cleaner zero-emission buses, bus priority measures on the new Sprint routes improving reliability, and some of the cheapest bus fares in the country.”

The new bus travel incentives will be offered to various key target groups including large employers, hospitals and retailers whose staff mostly drive to work, to encourage them to leave the car at home.

Also targeted are those who are changing travel patterns after moving house or starting a new job, former season ticket holders and people who could try the bus for occasional trips to the shops, an NHS appointment or leisure activity.

The incentive would be provided through a Swift card or mobile app. The offer will be via invite only.

Further incentives will be focussed on opening up opportunities for a wide range of groups for whom the bus can help them connect with work, health, education and the wider transport system and TfWM will be working with employers, charities and other organisations to achieve this.

Many large employers in the region already benefit from discounted ticketing, including NHS Trusts that have worked with National Express West Midlands and TfWM to invite staff to sign up for digital nBus tickets delivered straight to their mobile phones.

In addition to encouraging staff to travel more sustainably and supporting organisations’ own travel plans, employers are seeing the programme as a powerful recruitment and retention tool, as the free and discounted travel enables colleagues to save money by ditching the car and switching to bus.


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