West Midlands mayor Andy Street responds to bus fare increase across the region

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West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has responded to questions following news the region’s main bus operator will be raising fares by as much as 26 per cent.

National Express West Midlands has announced it is increasing the price of bus fares.

All day tickets and weekly passes are being hit by above inflation price rises from July 3. The fare for a National Express West Midlands all day ticket is going up 50p from £4 to £4.50 from Monday 3rd July 2023. - a 12.% increase, which is above inflation which is 7.8%. A weekly pass will be £17, a £2 increase from £15 currently - a rise of 13.3%.

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National Express is also reviewing whether it will continue to participate in the government’s £2 price cap scheme. The bus operator said: “The West Midlands will continue to have the cheapest bus tickets of any city region in England, and an all day ticket below the price in 2017.” It further advised that paying bus fares by Direct Debit remains the most cost effective way to travel - with a monthly price of £55.

The bus operator stressed that this is the first price rise since 2017 for the majority of fares, saying that the day ticket will remain cheaper than in 2017.

What has the mayor said about the increase?

West Midlands mayor Andy Street has released a statement saying the increase was “disappointing” and emphasised that West Midlands bus fares had been “frozen for six years whilst they rose elsewhere”.

He explained that, without the increase, nearly half the network would be at risk of cuts and said he would “not allow it to be decimated”. In September, Mr Street had announced a fare freeze until 2025, ahead of the Tory conference, but this is no longer going ahead.

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The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) asked Mr Street if he felt undermined by NXWM’s change of course.

He insisted “no”, saying it was his “firm belief” last year that freezes could be maintained because bus usage was increasing. But he said usage had since “plateaued” and the “strong background” of freezes and reductions could not be maintained.

Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is currently in partnership with NXWM and other operators to try to improve bus services in the region, with version one established in June 2021, and version two last year. The upcoming third version of the partnership will be entered in July, which means the company will increase prices just before signing up to the conditions.

Asked whether the company was acting in good faith, Mr Street said: “It’s not my job to and defend the operator at all.

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Birmingham bus fares to increaseBirmingham bus fares to increase
Birmingham bus fares to increase | National Express West Midlands

“And let’s be really clear, there’s been pretty difficult negotiations from when they told me this because I get for customers that this is bad news. And it’s not easy to have to explain why the decision’s been made.

“But I think you’re being unfair on NXWM because still the enhanced partnership stands.”

He said the WMCA would use extra central government money to “plug the gap” and the partnership could prevent the need to move to publicly-run buses, a model known as ‘bus franchising’.

Asked if it was fair for NXWM to receive more funding after it had cut services and raised fares, he said: “They were always likely to have a large share of the [funding], but not all of it.” He added that some of the funding was for improving the network for customers and providing better public information. Mr Street added: “But the point that I think has got to come out from all of this is that public money is being used to protect the network.”

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Later on speaking to BBC WM about the fare increase, Mr Street, added: “It’s a very difficult decision and it’s very disappointing for customers, and the fact that we’d frozen them for six years and redcued fares two years ago, that shows how how I get that this really matters to people, I get that this is important.

“But the simple fact is this the finances of National Express West Midlands have deteriorated markedly since that promise was made last year. So faced with the decision of do we cut the services across the region by 40% or do we do lots of things incluidng this fare rise to protect these services which are so important.”

West Midlands Mayor Andy StreetWest Midlands Mayor Andy Street
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street | West Midlands Combined Authority

What has TfWM said about the price rises?

Following the news, a statement from Transport for West Midlands, said: “We have been notified of National Express’ intention to increase their fares. Whilst we recognise bus operators are being significantly impacted by rising costs compounding the Covid-19 pandemic related challenges, it is of course disappointing to see fares rise.

“Transport for West Midlands has and continues to work tirelessly with operators and government to secure financial support and investment in the network. It is important to note that fares in the West Midlands remain among the cheapest in the country.

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“We are also actively working with all operators on further initiatives that will help maintain services at present levels, simplify ticketing and keep costs for passengers low moving forward. Buses remain great value and an efficient bus network is a critical part of our plans for a greener and better connected West Midlands.”

What are the full details of the bus fare rise in the West Midlands, is there more information?

In addition to increasing bus fares, National Express West Midlands also pointed out that it is reviewing whether it will participate in the Government’s forthcoming £2 bus fare cap scheme. Here are the full detail of product options and prices from July 3:

  • All day ticket £4.50, up from £4.00 - and now works on all buses whatever operator
  • Weekly pass £17, up from £15 - and now works on all buses whatever operator
  • Direct Debit - best value of all - £55 a month - and now works on all buses whatever operator

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