8 November 2013: It is always great to hear of stories of passionate local campaigners standing up for public transport and doing all they can to make those in power sit up and listen. Daniel Farr from Bristol is one such campaigner. Over the course of the past year he has campaigned for cheaper and fairer bus fares with his Make Fares Fair Campaign. Here Daniel shares his story of campaign success and how he went about making such a positive change....
"I started campaigning after 13 years of being an unhappy bus commuter in Bristol, and complaining to my friends and family about how bad my bus service was. I thought about trying to do something about it, but never did, and then one week in November 2012 several bus drivers charged me £6.30 for the same journey I took every day which usually cost me £6.00.
I decided to complain to First Bus about getting overcharged, but when I did it took several weeks for them to reply to my email, and I was very unsatisfied with their response. This proved the tipping point to me, and one night when I was Twitter complaining about Bristol’s buses someone suggested I started an e-petition calling for them to lower their bus fares which I already thought were too expensive.
I took the idea by setting up an e-petition on the Number 10 website in December 2012 calling on the government to reduce bus fares, because the local council won't do anything about it. The numbers of signatures didn't go up that fast until I tweeted local politicians including the Mayor George, and got them to sign it. That got the e-petition a lot of publicity, and the amount of signatures started going up by the hundred every day. To generate more publicity I decided to organise a demo outside of the main bus station in Bristol, and invited local MP's Charlotte Leslie, Stephen Williams, and Kerry McCarthy to speak at the event as well as inviting all the local media.
Before the demo I had a meeting with management of First who told me they had looked into my complaint, and said that I was right I had been overcharged. They offered to send me a gift to make up for it, but the campaign was becoming more successful and had gone too far to stop it now. When I start something I like to see it through until the end.
A few weeks after the demonstration First Bus announced it would be holding its public consultation and asking the public what it thought of the fare prices. I was pleased about the announcement, but concerned that they would be appointing the company carrying the consultation process so it would hardly be 'independent'. The consultation would take all summer, but I wanted to keep the story in the news, and not let it die away. I found out that if I got 3,500 signatures it would trigger a debate at a Bristol City Council meeting, and I would get the opportunity to open the debate. First I had to set up a new e-petition on the Council website, which I did, and eventually the number of signatures on both the e-petitions reached the designated target. I went along to the Council House where I made a speech, and after several speeches by a number of City Councillors a motion supporting my campaign was put to a vote and it got 100% backing.
During the summer the profile of the campaign grew and I met with the leader of the council about the possibility of an Integrated Transport Authority with the other local authorities, and also met the leader of Bath Council, and spoke at a cabinet meeting about a campaign to reduce the bus fares there. I was also invited to speak about my campaign to members of the Labour party in South Gloucestershire.
Over the summer First made several announcements about bringing back their popular 'three stop hop' which meant you could travel up to three bus stops for a £1 and that they would be accepting on their buses our local currency the Bristol pound.
I was worried that this was the good news to soften us up for some bad news when it came to the results of the consultation. So I was genuinely surprised by how far First went when they announced they would be cutting bus fares for children by 50 per cent and for students and young people by 30 per cent.
I am very proud of what my campaign has achieved as it’s a huge step in the right direction, but there’s still more work to do as Bristol still needs Smart Cards, fare transparency, better disabled access on all bus routes and lower fares for those who use the bus outside the new inner zone."