First York has announced they are changing student prices across their 66 bus routes, starting 2nd September. A single ticket from the centre of York to the University campus has increased from £1.60 to £2, and an annual fare is now £210 as opposed to £200 in the previous academic year.
The increases in single and annual fares come alongside the introduction of new 10-journey Yorkey cards and a student day pass, which allows unlimited journeys on a given day for £3.
In light of these plans, some students have criticised First York, as these new tickets require greater journey planning on the part of the student which is not always viable. In addition to this, some have said that the new tickets are making students commit to journeys they may not wish to. Nouse reported on the backlash to changes to the 66/66A routes back in June with 62.8 per cent of students surveyed saying they were unhappy with route changes. Nouse have been reporting student criticisms and lack of satisfaction of First services as far back as January 2016. First, who beat Transdev for the University bus services after bidding to run the service at no cost to the University, have a contract to continue running them until 2020.
Patrick Hook-Willers is a student who uses First Bus to get to campus. On the new fares, he told Nouse: “Making the return fare unlimited over the day could be beneficial to some that live out in town but seems like a ploy to increase the price by a big margin while keeping the product essentially the same”.
The fare changes come as part of First York’s plan to get passengers to use their mobile ticketing service (mTicket) instead of traditional paper tickets. The managing director of First York Marc Bichtemann said the move, which echoes the cashless service now used on Transport for London buses, is being made to “help speed up boarding and journey times and increase overall punctuality for the service”. The punctuality and reliability of the service is also the justification that Bichtemann used for the unpopular changes to the 66 and 66A came into effect in June. YUSU President James Durcan also echoed Bichtemann’s comments, encouraging students to use the mTicket app to improve the service’s speed and reliability. He also stated that students could use the mTicket app or Yorkey Card to bulk purchase trips, as this will prove cheaper in the long run.
Durcan made handling First York in a way that provides a better service for students a fundamental promise during his campaign. In a statement released to Nouse, Durcan was highly critical of First, saying that “It is extremely disappointing that students will face an increase in bus fares. Having clearly conveyed to First the impact this will have on our students, University staff, the City of York and the criticism that they will open themselves up to, they have taken the commercial decision to raise fares.”
Durcan however did highlight some of the positives which have come from First listening to student concerns regarding services running to the York Sport Village. He further commented to Nouse: “This has resulted in reverting back to running early morning and late evening buses. Improvements to the morning express service (66X) from the station direct to University as well as the fact that the Night Service (N66) will now be operating every 15 mins are further examples of positive changes which are to be introduced following consultation with YUSU, the GSA, and the student body.
Nouse asked students who use the service what they thought of the changes that First York have made, and their answers were uniformly sceptical. Noah Hunt, a second-year History student, told us that the new day pass “seems like a good bargain until you realise that the increase in other fares means you’re forced to pay for it even if you don’t need to use it more than twice”