Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The 'Avon Rider'

For over twenty years, bus travellers in the north-east have enjoyed the option of buying an 'Explorer' ticket. It's valid across all the main (and most of the smaller) bus operators, plus all the Tyneside Metro system and the Shields ferry  (sadly, not the main rail network). It provides a day's travel throughout Northumbria, from the Scottish border and down into North Yorkshire, and across the country to Carlisle as a bonus. Given that it's well over 100 miles north to south, that's a lot of square miles.

You buy it on the day, on the bus, the metro, or the ferry. These days the adult price is £9; there are family and concessionary rates too.

This weekend, our local bus companies finally got their act together to launch a Bristol and Bath equivalent. It covers the old Avon area – Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, and BaNES. It's called 'Avon Rider', and comes in just one version to start with, an adult version selling at £7.50 (and 30p off that at first!). Buy it on any of the companies' buses - Abus, Bath Bus Company, Bakers-Dolphin, Crosville Motor Services, Faresaver, First, North Somerset Coaches, Somerbus, Webber Bus and Wessex Connect .

It certainly has advantages for any complex journeys across the West of England patch; by contrast, First's Greater Bristol equivalent comes in at £6 for a day without straying far from Bristol's urban boundary and without any chance of using other operators' services. Though 'Avon Rider' still comes nowhere near the range and the economy of the north-east's Explorer, it is a promising first step.

What is special, and very welcome about the Avon Rider, is that for the very first time the local bus companies have actually got together to offer it. For years, that seemed impossible, and I suspect that had much to do with First protecting their regional monopoly position; their in-house Day Rider tickets effectively kept passengers from using rival services. I'm sure it's no coincidence that in the north-east First are not a significant bus operator, and the other big groups – Arriva, Go-Ahead, and Stagecoach were more relaxed about co-operation with other operators.   

A decent integrated transport system will never happen while the different elements put their own priorities First.


Anonymous said...

If First would honour the AvonRider ticket, it would make things lot easier... My experience today was awful and is explained in this complaint I've forward to First.

"Please can you make your drivers aware of the AvonRider travel card that is has been available since September 3rd.

As today I was refused travel on 3 First Bus Services in Weston-Super-Mare because I had this ticket and because it was issued by Bakers Dolphin where I started my journey.

If you are not going to accept this ticket, then please do not advertise it on your website - as it is misleading passengers into spending more money when they don’t need to.

All other bus services in the town accepted the Ticket with no issue it was only an issue with your Services and Drivers.

If and when I travel in and around Weston-Super-Mare on the AvonRider travel card if I am refused Travel on any First Service with this Ticket I will have to take matters further as I do not wish to be embarrassed by your Drivers with a bus full of passengers whilst also engaging in an ‘small argument’ with your Drivers on the validity of the AvonRider ticket.

I had to repeat myself time and time again but they told me as it was issued by Bakers Dolphin they wouldn’t allow me to travel unless I bought a ticket which I refused since I already had the AvonRider.

I was allowed on one First Service after I had proved First accepted it by showing them the First Bus website on my iPhone with the news item I’ve linked previously, another Driver after asking him how I could make a complaint told me that he’d only found out by reading it in the Weston Mercury which of course was published on Thursday 6th September when the AvonRider ticket as stated on your website came into effect on September 3rd.

I’ve have sent this email, as I would not like to have anyone else treated in such manner as it seems I am the only one I know thus far to have tried to use it since your drivers don’t seem to know about it, I’m pretty sure it should be on your Ticket Machine Systems.

If I hadn’t of set off early today for my Hospital Appointment, I would of also been late for said Hospital Appointment which isn’t acceptable as I allowed myself enough time to travel and trying out the AvonRider Ticket for my first time and the service I received today from First and your drivers is not acceptable as I had to use other bus services when I shouldn’t have needed to, and I shall be avoiding having to use First Services wherever possible in the future because of my experience today."

Stockwood Pete said...

You'd think that First are big enough to make sure their drivers and systems are kept up to date. I did check with the driver of our First (city) bus today, and he knew about AvonRider, so it's not universal.

In the "Post" comments someone mentioned that the city won't accept AvonRider on its contracted services .... I'm trying to check that out. If it's true, it needs challenging.

Stockwood Pete said...

Response from BCC about validity of AvonRider on contracted services:

"Unfortunately the ticket is not available on certain Bristol City Council supported services at present (511, 512, 513, 514, 515 and Park and Ride services), however we are in negotiations with the partners of the scheme to try and provide the Avon Rider on these services."

You'd think it would just be a matter of council-run services having the same terms as any other operating partner. But maybe that's too simplistic!”

Avon E Scoot said...
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