‘Book my bus ride’ - The UK ’s first scheduled bus space booking trial rolled out into Bath
First West of England has today (3 August) extended its pioneering space booking system to its Batheaston to Weston service in Bath.
From today, customers on the 3a service will be able to book a space on the bus ahead of their journey. These services will be renumbered as 3b to denote it is a bookable bus. This route was chosen as one of the first trials as it serves the Royal United Hospital and many key workers remain reliant on public transport to get to and from work.
The pilot launched last week on the Brislington Park and Ride service and will be further extended on the service between Bristol and Thornbury from 10 August.
This innovative new facility comes as First continues to find ways to use technology to improve the experience for its customers. It follows recent changes to First’s app, which now enables customers to track the location and seat availability of their bus. Along with social distancing measures on its buses and an enhanced cleaning regime, it forms a package of measures to ensure customers can make informed and safe journeys on First’s buses and comes at a time when the Government has changed its advice to make it clear that anybody can use public transport.
The ‘Book my bus ride’ initiative is being pioneered by First West of England in partnership with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and is believed to be the first system of its kind operating on regular, scheduled bus services in the UK.
Bookings can be made up to seven days in advance of the journey, with the flexibility of being able to reserve a space, subject to availability, right up to 15 minutes before departure. Customers will have the option of buying a ticket with their reservation or booking at no extra cost if they already have a pre-paid First Bus ticket or are a concessionary card holder travelling after 9.00 am.
With capacity onboard currently reduced due to social distancing, the reservation will secure a space on the chosen bus rather than a specific seat. Bookings will be made on a new, dedicated website, www.bookmybusride.com, with customers receiving an email confirmation that is either scanned onboard or shown alongside an existing, pre-paid ticket.
Bookings will be possible for all Monday to Friday journeys on the 3b service with just under 50% of the socially distanced capacity being bookable and the remaining seats left available for customers to board and pay as normal without a booking.
Chris Hanson, Head of Operations for Bath, said: “Here in the West of England we are pioneering new ways of travelling by bus to make it the smartest way to move around the region.
“By introducing ‘Book my bus ride’ to selected routes in Bristol, Bath and Thornbury, we aim to reassure customers that they can secure a space on their chosen journey. The initiative is in its early stages and, if successful, we hope to integrate the advanced booking technology into the First Bus mobile app, as well as the onboard ticketing software, to revolutionise both the customer and driver experience.
“This route was selected as it serves the Royal United Hospital and we know how many key workers there are still using it to get to and from work: hopefully this new service will give them an added level of certainty about being able to secure a space and take away any anxiety while we are operating at reduced levels.
“As the way we all live and work adjusts to the ’new normal’, so must public transport too. We’re pleased to welcome back many passengers as more shoppers and commuters return. With capacity on-board currently reduced to support social distancing, we hope this new optional booking service will help to reassure customers, particularly those travelling at busy times, that it is now possible to secure their space on certain routes, before even getting on the bus.
“We’d like to thank all our customers for their ongoing patience and cooperation over the last few months. As life starts to return to some normality, we’re pleased to now bring forward this exciting, new trial and take a major step forward in bus travel innovation.”
Brian Johnson, RUH Director of Estates and Facilities, said: “The safety of our patients and staff is our priority, so we’re very pleased that this new service will offer passengers reassurance that they can use this bus and be confident that they will be observing social distancing measures.
“We aim to be a sustainable organisation and continue to work for and support incentives that can benefit the environment. Travel to and from the RUH for our patients, visitors and staff is a key focus, so the availability of safe, viable alternative transport to the hospital is important in encouraging travel here in a more environmentally friendly way.”
West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “This is a terrific new service which will help people know they can rely on the bus and give them more reasons to leave their car at home. I’m determined to keep our region moving and make sure the West of England leads the country on using technology to improve our public transport – giving people greater choice and flexibility in how they travel. This new service once again shows that the West of England is leading the way on finding new ways to move around.”
To reserve a seat on the Bath 3b service, customers can visit www.bookmybusride.com where bookings now open. Bookings for the T1b service start on 3 August.
For customers who are not able to make an online booking, a dedicated phone line is also being trialled and is available on 07866 977586, Monday to Friday from 09.00-17.00 (excluding Public Holidays). Confirmation of all phone bookings will be sent in the post and First recommends making phone bookings seven days in advance of your journey to allow time for this delivery.