Fare Game
Bus Travel,  Fares,  Go North East

Better Bus Fares? A month on

So it has been about a month now, since Go North East introduced their new ‘GoZones’ range of tickets, back on the 21st July 2019. I thought I’d write a relatively quick piece on this, documenting my observations over the past month.

Now I’m normally quite sceptical about these large scale fare changes; I’ve certainly voiced my frustration in the past, of what I’ve perceived to be ‘backdoor’ increases, and operators avoiding having to relay the negative message of fare increases, on to their customers. But I have to say, overall, the move to GoZones, appears to have been a positive one.

The introduction of GoZones, has introduced a product which offers perceived benefits over the now-scrapped Buzzfare scheme. Go North East will tell you that the majority of customers can now go further on a single zone ticket, offering them a daily/weekly and monthly saving. It has also completely overshadowed the fact that single/return fares have also risen.

The Go North East Facebook page is usually alive and kicking when this sort of announcement drops, and you could literally spend hours reading through all the complaints and negative comments; but it just wasn’t the case this time round. Much the opposite, with many positive comments, of customers reporting how much they’d save with the forthcoming increases. Perhaps this was expected, being the largest wholesale change in over 10 years, but nice to see all the same.

The marketing and promotional campaign has been one of the best I’ve seen, from a bus operator, in a long time. It was bold, in your face, and well thought out. At one point, even ensuring that the competition carried the promotional message!

Metro newspaper with a front-page advertisment wrap for Go North East's 'Better Bus Fares' campaign.
A Durham-based Arriva Pulsar 2, having taken stock of the daily edition of the ‘Metro’ newspaper.

Buses across the depots were well prepared with fare changes posters, secured into the clipframe at the front of the bus, and although it took me some time to come across one, some buses also had stocks of a fare changes ‘timetable size’ leaflet. This is quite a good and informative leaflet, so its a shame that sufficient stocks weren’t provided on buses across the fleet.

On the cab door of the buses I travelled on, a day before the fare changes, an A4 paper sign was sellotaped into place, advising customers of the fare changes the next day. I do wonder if this was a ‘quick fix’ as a result of a printing delay, because standard copier paper isn’t exactly the most durable material to place there. Many rips and tears were visible the following day…

One thing that wasn’t provided in the prices list, and isn’t on the website either, is a list of zone boundaries for each service. I asked Go North East about this, but was advised by Customer Services that I’d need to enquire each time. This seems a bit of a chore, given it is something that could be placed on the website (or App!) for self-service.

A ‘Better Bus Fares’ tour was launched on July 19th, which travelled across the region in an open top bus, promoting the new GoZones tickets. The open top bus was branded for the occasion, and large scale promotional versions of the Go North East app, contactless payment card, and a QR code multi-trip ticket, were along the materials in use.

One final thing to note, and a big thumbs up from me, is the promotional work around Network One tickets. These tickets offer a great value multi-modal and/or multi-operator alternative, and we really should be putting more time and effort into expanding this range. It was therefore pleasing to spot the ‘price list’ by the door of most buses.

Bus 5366 displaying a ‘price list’ by the door

These price lists started to appear about a week after the changes, and by the second week, they appeared to be on most buses that I had spotted. I did observe a vertical version of the price list on one of Washington’s indiGo branded Solos, which I think is due to the window layout. Unfortunately that appeared to be one of the few carrying the vertical version, as despite my best efforts, I didn’t spot another Solo carrying one.

So in summary; a positive campaign and one that has, in my opinion, resulted in better value for money to a lot of customers. In so many ways, this was a massive shift change about the way Go North East do things. There is still room for improvement, but I’m keen to see a lot more of this in the future.

Adrian

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