BUS fare hikes in Dorset have caused confusion among passengers – and the company’s staff.
The changes, which came into effect last Saturday, saw a rise in fares for First Bus passengers making longer journeys but a reduction in price for some fares.
Tanya Evison was told on Monday morning that her fare from Chideock to Bridport had gone up by 75 per cent.
She said: “They told us we had to pay for a ticket from Lyme Regis, seven miles in the other direction.
“Neither I, my partner or the two people I spoke to this morning had seen any advertising regarding this.”
A message to First Bus via Facebook initially got a curt response insisting that the new fare was correct and that the changes had been well-advertised.
Later First admitted it was wrong and apologised saying: “It seems our driver has charged the wrong fare stage and it caused some confusion here in the office too – not uncommon with new fare structures.”
First Dorset staff met passengers at Weymouth’s bus hub on The Esplanade to explain how the changes, designed to simplify the fares system, would affect them.
Simon Newport, general manager for First Dorset, was among the staff answering passengers’ questions.
He said: “The last time fares went up was December 2012. It has been a long time since we changed our fares and we have to balance the books.
“We’ve introduced fare zones which means that people can buy one through ticket at the start of their journey.
“If someone is going from Portland to Poole they can buy the whole journey in one ticket and know how much it’s going to be.”
Mr Newport said he wanted to talk to passengers to make them fully aware of the changes.
Meanwhile Susan Rice, who travels from Lyme Regis used Facebook to complain about a 50 percent fare increase.
“I got on the bus this morning to be told that my fare from Lyme Regis to Morcombelake had grownby 50 per cent from £2.40 to £3.50 for a single.
“Do you think that this is helping to bring people back to the buses as you have now lost my usual £12 a week and I shall travel earlier with family? Shame on you First!”
A parent of a student at the Woodroffe School in Lyme Regis told First: “My son currently gets the 31 bus from Axminster to the Woodroffe school, at a cost of £10.50.
“Under your new structure, the price has just jumped to £15, can you justify a 43 percent increase in a child’s school bus fare?”
A First Dorset spokesman responded: “We are trying to organise a special fare specifically for that route, so apologies for the confusion.”
Commenting on the reason for the restructuring, Mr Newport said: “Our fares system had become extremely complicated and often resulted in our customers not always getting the best value for money because of the confusion this has caused.
“Having consulted our Dorset customer groups, they said many passengers found it very difficult to work out which was the right ticket for their journey.
“Having considered their feedback, we decided that introducing simpler fares would result in less hassle for our customers.
“To this end, we have completely overhauled the way our fares are structured to make it more user-friendly and easier for First’s customers to understand.
“There will be fare increases on some services but this is necessary to make fares consistent throughout the region and to ensure that bus travel in Dorset remains excellent value for money.”