Progress through Partnerships
First Bus is committed to advancing partnerships, everywhere we operate.
Leeds is one of the flagships of our new approach with partners - sharing a common objective to invest in the bus network and to double passenger numbers in the city over the next decade.
By working together, local authorities and bus operators can make a real impact on congestion and air quality, provide better services for our customers, deliver patronage growth and support local economies more effectively. These are all parts of a virtuous circle; more passengers mean fewer cars on the road, less congestion and, in turn, improved air quality. At First Bus, we are committed to continuing to provide reliable bus services and supporting local economies and we believe the air quality agenda allows buses to demonstrate their full potential.
In Leeds, we have agreed a partnership with Leeds City Council and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority with the aim of doubling patronage by 2025, which will be delivered through investing in bus infrastructure. We match this with our own fleet investment in the newest, greenest buses for the city. This not only supports the city’s aspirations on growing bus patronage, but it also meets the needs of its Low Emission Zone proposal.
We are committed to investing in new technology and payment options. The introduction of contactless payments alongside our success with mobile ticketing is pivotal as we continue to make bus travel a convenient, simple and attractive experience for our customers. Use of mTickets is exceeding our expectations and continues to grow daily, so we fully expect customers to welcome and grasp contactless bus travel with the same enthusiasm.
The same is true elsewhere. Our Aberdeen operation has seen a significant rise in “smart” payments in recent months, with almost 50 per cent of customers now using a “cashless” payment method. With contactless now available in Leeds, we are working hard to encourage more customers to convert to using mTickets or contactless, as this will have a huge impact on boarding times and will help us in the battle to speed up the bus.
Investment in Leeds’s bus network
Leeds will benefit from high frequency bus corridors, improved park and ride facilities and better stops and signs after a £174m funding package was confirmed in April 2017. The multimillion pound investment includes new segregated bus corridors, with real time information for passengers to include journeys in and around the city centre. Commuters will see more reliable journeys and better travel information, with a focus on improving the daily experience of bus users.
For our part, we will deliver a fleet investment of £71million in 284 new vehicles by the end of 2020 that meet the Low Emission Zone requirements, with Leeds City Council investing in the highway network to deliver a reduction in bus journey times and improved reliability. We are working alongside the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and other operators to bid for government funding for retro-fitting of the remaining vehicles that will not comply with the Leeds Low Emissions Zone proposal. The results will see the customer experience hugely transformed, as well as the city’s environment.
The Leeds partnership builds on the pre-existing West Yorkshire Bus18. This partnership, brought together by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, has involved the city-region’s major bus operators working together to improve West Yorkshire bus services and encouraging more people to use them.
Recent successes included:
1. Making buses easy to use by reducing the number of service changes, addressing the issues affecting punctuality on five key routes and improving passenger information.
2. Reducing emissions by signing up to the ECO Stars scheme, which provides recognition, guidance and advice on operational best practice to help reduce fuel consumption and harmful emissions on local roads.
3. Improving passenger experience and satisfaction by launching a money back guarantee and focussing on young person initiatives – including a recent announcement to allow children in uniform to travel without a half fare bus pass.
The mutual trust and commitment gained through working together on Bus18, gave partners the confidence to embark on the even more ambitious agenda for across the city.
The First Bus partnership with Leeds City Council and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority is at the heart of our future strategy for improving the reliability of services and encouraging even more residents and visitors to travel by bus in the city, whether for work, education, retail or leisure.