Book my bus ride
The UK ’s first scheduled bus space booking trial rolled out on Thornbury to Bristol city centre route
First West of England has extended its pioneering space booking system to the Thornbury to Bristol city centre service.
Customers on the T1 service can now book a space on the bus ahead of their journey. These services will be re-numbered as T1b to denote it is a bookable bus. This route was chosen as one of the first trials as it is a busy inter urban route that offers customers a significantly reduced travel time when the M32 is busy.
The pilot launched in July on the Brislington Park and Ride service and was subsequently introduced to the Batheaston to Weston route in Bath last week (3 August).
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 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 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 peak time Monday to Friday journeys on the T1b 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, First West of England Head of Operations, 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 service was selected for the pilot as it is a busy route that takes pressure off the often congested M32. In peak times, taking the bus can significantly reduce passenger travel time. 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.
“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.”
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.”
South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport Cllr Steve Reade said: “I’m very pleased to see First pilot this new booking system in our area. It is particularly welcome currently as it will help reassure people that they will be able to safely catch the bus whilst adhering to social distancing measures. It will also add to users’ confidence that a bus will be available and help to increase patronage, so reducing the numbers of cars on the roads.
“It’s great to see technology used to improve public transport in our region and help people find more sustainable and convenient alternatives to travelling by car.”
To reserve a space on the Thornbury T1b service, 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.
The booking service has started on an initial three services as follows:
- Brislington Park & Ride: bookings started on Monday 27 July 2020 for journeys from the same date.
- Bath 3b: bookings started on Monday 27 July for journeys from Monday 3 August 2020.
- Thornbury T1b: bookings started on Monday 3 August 2020 for journeys from Monday 10 August.
Picture caption: L – R: Cllr Steve Reade, Chris Hanson and Andy Wynn, Manager WillowBrook Shopping Centre, Bradley Stoke