Book my bus ride: First Bus new booking system rolled out on Paulton to Bath route
First West of England has extended its innovative space booking system to the popular Somer Valley route between Paulton and Bath.
Customers on the 171/172 services can now book a space on the bus ahead of their journey. This route, which services Paulton, Midsomer Norton, Radstock and Peasedown St John, before terminating at Bath Bus Station, was chosen as one of the trials as it is well patronised and serves a number of key communities.
The pilot launched in the summer on the Brislington Park and Ride service in Bristol and now also runs on the Thornbury to Bristol city centre route with the service on both routes proving popular with customers.
This innovative new facility comes as First continues to find ways to use technology to improve the travelling 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.
The ‘Book my bus ride’ initiative is being trialled by First West of England in partnership with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA.) 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 are made on a new, dedicated website, www.bookmybusride.com, with customers receiving an email booking confirmation that needs to be shown to the driver with an existing ticket/concessionary card if payment has not been made at the time of booking.
Bookings are possible for all Monday to Friday journeys, 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. The service started on 5 October.
Chris Hanson, First West of England Operations Director, said: “Here in the West of England we are constantly coming up with 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 Bath and Bristol we aim to reassure customers that they can secure a space on their chosen journey.
“It’s a bit of trial and error to determine where take up is going to be most popular. This service was selected as it is a busy route that services a number of key communities in the Somer Valley who both commute to work and travel for pleasure into Bath city centre. We wanted to add an additional layer of security for those customers who use it regularly and want the confidence of securing a space before they start their journey, as well
as appeal to new customers.
“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.
“As the way we all live and work adjusts to the ’new normal’, so must public transport too. 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.”
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 space on the 171 and 172 services from 5 October, customers can visit www.bookmybusride.com.
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.