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.