Hefty hike in bus fares

BUS passengers who use First Eastern Counties services in Suffolk are today facing fare increases several times the rate of inflation on Sunday for the second time this year.

BUS passengers who use First Eastern Counties services in Suffolk are today facing fare increases several times the rate of inflation on Sunday for the second time this year.

And there are fears that the increase could put people off using the public transport, just as the government is trying to persuade commuters to go green.

Fares of less than £1 are going up by 10p while those of more than £1 will be going up by 20p.

That means the normal fare for most trips within the Ipswich area will go up from £1.40 to £1.60 - an increase of more than 14 per cent.

This comes just 10 months after the company put up its fares by a similar percentage in early February - and a revision of multi-tickets in June left some passengers further out of pocket.

Phil Richings, from Rushmere, was appalled by the new increase.

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He said: “At the start of 2005, a typical price for a single journey for the semi-casual user in the Ipswich urban area was 70p (£7.00 for ten journeys within one month).

“This was increased to £8.50 in February 2005 and withdrawn totally around the end of June 2005. Now the proposed single fare for this semi-casual user from this weekend in the same area will be £1.60 - a 128 pc increase per journey in well under a year.”

First have blamed the increase in fuel charges for the increases.

Managing director Keith Andrews said: “We try hard to absorb any increases in costs and in so doing keep our fares as low as possible.

“However, the worldwide increase in the price of fuel has pushed our costs to a point where, regrettably, we have no alternative but to increase fares.

“I appreciate our buses are a vital link for many of our customers, and any decision to increase fares is always taken as a last resort.”

He added: “First's last across the board increase was in January 2005, however a season ticket review was carried out during the summer which revised some discount levels. This was not an across the board increase and some fares went up, some fares went down and some saw no change whatsoever.”