Yesterday, Stagecoach announced a hike to the regional bus fares which is set to take effect next Sunday 2 April. The Unirider bus passes, which are currently unaffected, are set to increase in September.
As single fares rose by between 10p and 40p, a single ticket between Warwick University and Leamington Spa will increase from £2.75 to £2.90. Return fares have yet to be announced, but the bus company has stated that “some will reduce, some stay the same and others increase.”
The Dayrider, Megarider and group passes have all been affected by the price hikes. While the Unirider ticket for term 3 is still unchanged at £125, Stagecoach has confirmed that it is set to increase before the next academic year.
This follows of spate of conflicts between local students and the bus company. In April 2012, Stagecoach faced commuter backlash for raising single fares to up to £1.40. Regional director Steve Burd defended the hike, citing national cost increases and government tax on fuel.
In November 2015, former SU president Isaac Leigh wrote an open letter to Stagecoach, condemning it for poor quality service. This followed over 200 complaints made by students to the SU as well as criticisms from Coventry University students.
This led to discussions in which Mr Burd agreed to increase bus capacity but did not refund students for missed journeys, after consistent overcrowding. However, at the start of the second term, another incident took place in which buses were reported not arriving in South Leamington and driving past crowded bus stops further north.
Before the start of this academic year, the company raised the cost of the three-term Unirider pass from £297 to £301.
Stagecoach became involved in another clash with students in term 1, when 1,000 students signed a petition opposing a new policy to not replace lost bus passes, as well as citing the lack of proper timetabling and frequent delays. While previously, lost or damaged passes had been replaced for a £25 fee, students were now told to re-purchase their passes, which could cost up to £301 for three terms.
Stagecoach Midlands marketing manager Chris Child told The Boar the change was “due to suspected fraudulent activity” and advised students to have their passes covered under house insurance and to report ticket thefts to the police. The bus passes can now only be replaced in extenuating circumstances, judged on a case-by-case basis.
Mr Burd explained that the new hike is a result of “rising costs: pay, engineering materials, insurance, etc.- but more particularly this year as a result of worsening traffic congestion, which has resulted in my company having to allocate significant extra resources to a number of our key services just to preserve existing frequencies.”
He confirmed that while the single and day ticket prices will not rise for another 12 months, the Unirider pass will increase again in September.
The fares hike is set to affect commuters in Leamington, Warwick, Nuneaton, Leicester, Rugby and Stratford-upon-Avon.
Meanwhile, fares on regional National Express buses have broadly increased since January, although short off-peak journeys have been reduced to £1.50.