Birthday buses: who knew?

A plan to give people in Bristol and the wider region free bus travel during their birthday month has been questioned by council leaders. 

The £8 million scheme starts this month and gives passengers a free bus pass to use during the month of their birthday.

Dan Norris, the West of England metro mayor, announced the initiative in May. 

Some critics of the “gimmick” raised questions about whether the millions in funding would be better spent on restoring some subsidised bus routes, which were recently axed.

Now the plan has faced further questions, as council leaders  said they were not consulted about the initiative before it was announced. During a meeting of the West of England Combined Authority, on Friday, June 16, they called for more cooperation in future.

Councillor Claire Young, the new Lib Dem leader of South Gloucestershire Council, said: “While I’m supportive of fare package initiatives, I do think we need to work in partnership so we can collectively explain how our new fare packages deliver value for money and seek to address inequalities.”

The initiative had not been discussed in the past two years by the combined authority’s transport board, according to Cllr Sarah Warren, Liberal Democrat cabinet member for transport on B&NES Council. 

Applications to get free bus travel can be made online — on the website which is not yet live — and a pass card will be sent out in the post. Anybody living in Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire, or North East Somerset can apply. The initiative will last for 12 months and is aiming to get more people in the region in the habit of using buses. It’s hoped that after using a bus for a month for free, some might stick with the habit. 

Despite the calls for “behaviour change”, none of the committee said they had used public transport to travel to the meeting, held at the Bawa Leisure Centre in Filton  when challenged by Christina Biggs, from Friends of Bristol Suburban Railways. 

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service