The SU are encouraging students to boycott First Bus services following a ticket price rise which they have called an “unreasonable and unfair” decision.
Some season ticket prices have been increased as of Thursday 1 June after a four year price freeze. This includes the Norwich Zone annual season pass which has increased by £10 from £215 to £225 and the UEA First Trio ticket which has increased by £6 from £199 to £205.
The SU said that the new prices do not bring “extra benefits” to students and “it’s time to take action” to persuade First to reverse the increase. The Union will stop selling passes from their outlets and will encourage students to find alternative ways to travel to university instead of using the 25/26 service.
SU Campaigns and Democracy Officer Amy Rust described First Bus as attempting to profit from students “by trying to hike up the cost of a pass without improving the service.”
The university said that the increase was “kept to a minimum” to guarantee “the prices for staff and students are far below those for other passengers.” They said the rise would “represent a huge saving for both staff and students.”
Steve Wickers, Managing Director for First Eastern Counties called their relationship with UEA an “excellent” one that provides “a sustainable and affordable bus service for staff and students.”
He said: “We run a high frequency bus service into the university with discounted fares that are some of the cheapest in the country.
We have managed to maintain ticket prices at discounted rates for ‘four years’ with no increases, but due to the shortfall in passenger growth, we now have to implement a slight increase to some ticket prices, to make up the deficit for future sustainability of the service.”
Dawn Dewar UEA’s Transport Co-ordinator said that the university’s partnership with First Bus is intended to provide affordable travel for students and is “a scheme First Bus are under no obligation to provide.” The university will be continuing to offer discounts of up to 65 percent on season tickets for student and staff through this partnership.
She said: “We believe that the £10 price increase we negotiated – 0.6p per day – represents excellent value for our 5,000 students and staff with season tickets and offers, at £225, a huge saving on the £630 members of the general public would pay for the same service.”
A new one-term Solo ticket will be introduced for students that will cost £99, replacing the previous “term time” ticket which cost £167.
The SU described buses as “often packed full” and “often arriving late or not at all.” They said “with services already being inadequate at peak times” the additional 1,000 students planned to join the UEA in September will strain the service further.
The SU stated they “haven’t received any support from the university on this matter” and claim First have failed to work with the union effectively. They added: “What we have instead been handed is an increasingly cramped and insufficient service, with a hefty price tag that continues to swell year on year.
Ms Dewar said that UEA Transport are in “regular discussion” with First Bus and called their services “frequent and reliable”, noting that the company “already run duplicate buses at peak times to cope with demand.” She added that a revision to the university’s Travel Plan strategy would be published in July, with attention to the season ticket.
The union have said that First Buses “refused to cooperate” with them on card transaction fees which are imposed by the SU’s card readers. For every 100 passes sold the SU will therefore have to pay approximately £450 in fees.
Miss Rust said: “We’ll be working up options over the summer, including looking at alternative operators, that allow students to hit First where it hurts whilst ensuring they can still make it in for lectures.”