Friday 20 January 2012

Fares Farce at Fulwood

Outstanding Offers on Optio Orange!
Regular blog readers will remember the outbreak of chumminess in Sheffield, whereby a group of bus services was branded "Optio Orange" and, particularly for competing services between Halfway, Sheffield and Fulwood, an integrated timetable was introduced.
It all looked very nice indeed with inter-availability of day and weekly tickets. "No need to worry about who runs the bus, get on the first that comes along" was the advice to passengers. Of course, competition remained in part as Stagecoach were quick to allocate high quality "hybrid" lean green machines to their share of the 120. 
But, not all is as chummy as might at first appear.

Earlier this month, First introduced "revised" fares in Sheffield; revised upwards, of course. Chum John, who lives near the 120 "Fulwood" terminus (which, as we all know, isn't at Fulwood), takes up the story ...

An interesting result of the First fares increases from 2 January is the effect of the variation of fares charged by First and Stagecoach on Service 120 (and presumably also on Service 52, although I have not experienced it).

In place of direct competition on service 52, we have Optio Red, similar to Orange but one notch left on the rainbow dial.

Expensive Firsts at Ranmoor : a pre-Optio snapshot

First increased their cash fares from £1.00 to £1.20 and from £1.30 to £1.40, whereas Stagecoach did not. Result: confusion among the passengers, different fares for the same journey at different times and passengers eschewing First and waiting for a Stagecoach bus on common sections of 120, ie between Crystal Peaks and Glossop Road (or Hallamshire Hospital when Glossop Road re-opens).

At night and on Sundays, when both operators run the full length of the route, alternate journeys charge different fares.

It makes no difference to purchasers of Day and Week tickets as they were unchanged.

What sort of partnership is this?

Furthermore the Stagecoach conductors selling tickets at the busy stops off-bus are selling them at £1.00 or £1.30, and these tickets can then be used on First journeys, to the benefit of passengers and causing loss of revenue to First!
When fbb was "summoned to the headmasters study" in December (read again) he was assured that Optios Orange and Red were a huge success and all parties were keen to see the scheme extended to the whole of Sheffield by September 2012.

Blog Brother is Watching You

If this Fulwood Fares Farce is typical of partnership, then all does not bode well for the rest of the scheme.

The legal basis under which two "competing" companies can work together is complex; so any hint of collusion in setting fares might be interpreted as a "see you in court" situation. In April, the bus service operators grant** is being reduced by 20%, so it must be inevitable that Stagecoach fares will rise. But ... will First have another "revision", or will prices return to a more helpful equilibrium?
Cheap as Chips Stagecoach at the University

In the meantime, many Sheffield residents will be taking the Orange Option of cheaper fares on Uncle Sir Brian Souter's buses.

** Once upon a time bus companies could recover all the Excise Duty paid on their fuel. The percentage recoverable has been reduced over the years and, rebranded as Bus Service Operators Grant, a further 20% reduction is due in April 2012. This will make fuel, thus bus fares, more expensive. A good way, Mr Cleggeron, to encourage the use of Public Transport!

 Next Blog : due Saturday January 21st 


  1. In fact fare anomalies predate the fares rise. The 'short-hop' fare (1-2 stages)on the 120, pre-increase, was 85p on First but only 80p on Stagecoach. The Stagecoach fare is of course unchanged, but First have now gone to £1.

  2. The "Optio Orange Q and A" page on the PTE website ( )says :

    "3.11 Are the Optio Orange tickets cheaper/more expensive depending on the operator?

    Yes, currently on single fares. Each operator is free to set the prices of their own tickets, including the Optio Orange range.

    3.12 Why can't fares be set the same on this network?

    It is illegal under Competition legislation for operators to agree fares, so First and Stagecoach may charge different fares for some journeys. Initially this will apply only to some single fares (not to day or weekly tickets)."

    I think this means "We aren't sure if the law allows us to charge exactly the same for everything, so we've left a few single fares different just in case".

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