Thursday 27 October 2022

For Better For Worse ...

For Richer For Poorer!

fbb's nostalgic look at some of Sheffield Transport's heavily annotated fare tabler from 1963 wasn't just an exercise in happy nostalgia for the good old days. It does beg the question, "is the 2022 fares structure the right way forward?"

Whilst very few bus companies publish fare tables, it does appear that the trend has been to ramp up single-journey fares - possibly to get the best payback for OAP 'free' travel - and give some ludicrously cheap travel on "season tickets".

In 1963 the vast bast majority of Sheffield passengers paid their fare to the conductor in money. The fare was the fare and that was it! fbb had a vague memory of "weekly" tickets aimed at "workpeople" but sales were low. If fbb's brain cells remember correctly, you bought a card ticket which was punched day by day with a simple circular punch fixed to the ticket machine shoulder strap.

The announcement of fares changes (an equally sanitised alternative to "revised") from Southern Vectis illustrates the point well.
The cost of running our bus services has significantly increased.  This has meant we have had to review the cost of our fares, and have reluctantly increased some ticket prices. This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We have kept any prices rises to an absolute minimum.

The language is entirely predictable, so much so that it is hardly worth writing. What is wrong with "Our fares will increase from Monday 31st October?" Honesty is surely the best policy; no one is conned by the platitudinous babble.

Would any person intent on "selling" ever write anything different?

We have gleefully increased some ticket prices. This is an off-hand decision in the hope you won't notice. We have ensured that the increases are as big as we can get away with!

But then the complexity is revealed.

Our single adult fares will increase by approximately 10p, 20p or 30p. Child singles will increase to short hop £1.50, medium hop £2.10, long hop £2.70 and period passes and multi-trip bundles will also have increases.

But we aren't telling you what the actual fares  are! And can you really believe "approximately" - or is it a management-speak obfuscation because some fared will increase more than others?

The good news is our £10 adult day rover will remain unchanged. 


As some stage in the recent past there has been a change in the pricing of a day rover. It used to be valid on everything including the open top "Breezer" routes but now...
... you pay a bit extra to be frozen on the top deck - somewhat academic at the moment because the OT routes cease for the winter.
These are still the current fares. But the fares policy becomes very obvious when we look at existing seasons - called "Freedom" tickets
Leaving aside the price difference between cash and two electronic technologies, with the doubt that users will be particularly price conscious, please note the bargain price set against a one day rover.

You get 7 days' travel for less than the price of three!

Blog readers will not be surprised to read this about "The Key", the most expensive way of buying the Freedom ticket

theKey system ...
...  is no longer being developed or supported and of late we have sadly experienced some technical issues causing inconvenience to some of our customers. Therefore, we are phasing out this method of buying bus tickets over the coming months. By the beginning of summer 2023 it will be discontinued. This will be a gradual process. Initially we will stop selling ticket types with very low sales.  Some ticket types that are withdrawn are available on our app.

But here are the "revised" prices for the current examples listed above.
And for Freedom seasons.

The multi-bundles at 5, 15 and 30 days travel within a year are, obviously, more expensive than a Freedom ticket (per day used). Why?

One slightly unusual feature of the Island's "ordinary" fares is that they are always valid for through journeys e.g. Alum Bay ...
... to Bembridge with a change at Newport and Ryde.
But we are not told what these fares are!

Back in the days of fbb's not too distant past it used to be singles and 1, 7 and 28 day rovers. The longer rovers were at a discount, but nowhere as big a reduction per day as today's Freedom tickets.

What would happen, fbb muses, to the company's bottom line if all the above were swept away allowing individual fares to be reduced and returning to the long-gone simple pattern of Rovers ...
... including the train as well!

With reduced single fares, more people might actually use the bus!

Hmm, not a good idea - all those extra passengers to spoil the company's efficiency!

I stops when I'm requested
Although it spoils the ride
So I can shout "Get out of it!
"We're full right up inside."
I don't ask much for wages
I only want fair shares
So cut down all the stages
And stick up all the fares.
If tickets cost ten pound apiece
Why should you make a fuss?
It's worth it just to ride inside
That thirty-foot-long by nine-foot-wide
Inside that monarch of the road
Observer of the highway code
That big six-wheeler, bright-green-painted,
Southern Vectis, diesel-engined,
Ninety-seven horsepower omnibus!

fbb seems to remember hearing a very similar song long, long ago!

 More blogging tomorrow : Friday 28th Oct 


  1. So a 7 day freedom is still valid on the breezers at £26/£28, it is only the 24h £10 rover which is not… you have to upgrade to the £12.50+breezer 24h rover instead.
    The 48h rover only comes in a “+breezer” version you’ll note, and also note that with tap on/tap
    off the headline says “automatically calculates your best available daily fare” but actually it doesn’t really in a LOT of cases… including situations as common as…. “return tickets that are less than the daily cap” or “purchasing a transfer fare from one route to another” which as FBB points out is available for ANY journey on the island which involves more than one bus… maybe “tap on, probably get ripped off” would have been more correct!

    There’s nothing like a bit of complication and the chance of paying more than you need to, to really PUT PEOPLE OFF using the bus and go by car instead!

  2. Bus fares are priced according to your commitment to the company. One journey is a lot more expensive than a five single days bundle and that is more expensive than a complete week's worth. This is often more marked in tourist areas with lots of casual users, but only for part of the year. Tourists need to pay for tourist services and may be subsidise the locals.

    On above comment: If Tap on/Tap off over charged, then passengers wouldn't use it and the big companies would not have spent a lot of money on the back office systems. The computer system can see what you are doing and charge accordingly. Most urban areas are flat fare with no return tickets, but a day ticket instead. Bristol has become more complex with 1 trip, 2 trips and 3+ trips per day fares and a weekly cap for Tap on / tap off. For children's fares and specials you still need a "ticket".