We(ca) choose a Dictatorship

I have written extensively in the past regarding my frustrations with all operator ticketing in WECA. All operator ticketing would give operators other than First the opportunity to provide services which are complementary the greater network rather than combative (something which barely exists in WECAvon now anyway).

First’s local dominance of Mobile Ticketing and the lack of any mobile platform for the AvonRider ticket family means that everyone else is effectively left out in the cold and single operator day and season tickets remain by far the most popular products. Conveniently, First can (and do) blame Stagecoach and their incompatible ticket machines causing this scenario.

The latest weapon being readied in First’s arsenal is “Tap and Cap” ticketing in Bristol where contactless cards (and mobile apps) will be capable of behaving like concessionary passes on their Ticketer machines. Passengers will then be charged the relevant day or week ticket fare by reconcilliation.

You may well not have heard about the launch of the Tap & Cap zone in Bristol, but that is hardly surprising as it seems to be the latest soft launch from First, who seem to be using their staff and passengers as guinea pigs for the system. I wonder how many of their driving staff will be bewildered by a savvy passenger requesting the new facility during the first few weeks. This follows swiftly behind the almost silent launch of two additional bookable bus routes (and the withdrawal of the facility from one of the launch routes – 3B in Bath).

Fare capping is one of the buzzwords banded around by WECA in their West of England Bus Strategy consultation earlier this year, the results of which were sneaked out amongst the Covid fuelled disarray and formally adopted in June without any notification to operators, despite the potentially ruinous effects it may have upon us.

First’s rushed implementation of Tap & Cap is clearly to appease WECA’s desires in their Strategy. These joint actions of First and WECA are making the bus network less resillient and less able to find alternative solutions when First decide they can no longer make a service work commercially. Ticketing options, particularly new ones, need to be the same and available across all operators. Sadly this goal doesn’t seem high on WECA’s priority list, but box ticking with buzzwords and gimmicks is clearly much more important.

Meanwhile the illustrious leader Tim Bowles makes it clear he is only keen on working with First or Stagecoach (and possibly HCT, who call themselves “Community Transport” whilst clearly nothing of the sort).

WECA have effectively chosen to implement a monopoly with First, a monopoly which surely won’t backfire on them…

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