People in the West of England to receive free bus travel for their birthday month

Passengers be able to get free bus travel across the West of England for their birthday month. Credit: LDRS

People in the West of England will be able to get free bus travel in their birthday month under new plans set to start this July.

Metro mayor for the West of England, Dan Norris revealed the birthday bus plan, yesterday (23 May), with a song and a cake onboard one of the region's Metrobuses.

A new £8-million plan starts in July and will give West of England residents free bus passes during the month of their birthday in a bid to get more people using public transport.

It aims to give people enough time to get in the habit of using the bus more often, as well as help commuters struggling with rising fuel costs.

Mr Norris said: “We’ve got a cost of living crisis which is very tough for lots of people, they’re genuinely frightened, so I want to help with that by reducing the cost of travelling by bus.

"Also, we’ve got a climate emergency, and that is clearly critical and getting worse if the latest figures are right, so we need to get people on public transport and out of their cars.

“We’ve got a load of congestion in our region which costs our regional economy £300 million a year, and we have 300 people every year dying prematurely because of air pollution.

"This initiative is giving residents of the West of England free bus travel for the whole of the month of their birthday. And it’s a UK first, there have been other initiatives but not like this one."

The announcement was made with cake and a song aboard a metro bus Credit: LDRS

He added: “The idea is that we can build in behaviour change. If you’re driving a car and you think, ‘You know what, I’ll give it a month on the bus and see how it goes’, there’s a chance that you might say you’re going to make many more bus journeys in the future and leave the car at home.”

It is hoped that the plans will make money that can then be reinvested into getting more bus services on the roads which will help reach the more rural areas in the region.

The announcement came on the same day that protesters met in Wooten-Under-Edge to protest plans to stop bus services to areas of South Gloucestershire including Chipping Sodbury and Yate.

Applications for the pass can be made online on the "Birthday Bus" website once the site is live - and a pass card will be sent out in the post.

The scheme will initially run for 12 months but could be extended if it's successful. It will cost £8 million which Mr Norris says is a large sum of money but something that's innovative and "what we've got to do".

Dan Norris announcing the birthday bus plan Credit: LDRS

He added: “We still need to get people changing their behaviour, not using their car so much, using buses wherever they can. This is designed to get all those people who haven’t used the bus to try it for a whole month and see how good it can be.

“Because it’s got data involved as people have cards, we’ll be able to tell which groups of people are using it, how often, in which parts of the West of England they’re using it. And we’ll be able to modify what we’re doing to hopefully attract even more passengers. It’s an experiment and we’re very interested to know how we can make it work.”

Credit: Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporter