Thursday, October 11, 2012

How not to buy a Bath student bus pass

Sorry, it’s time for a whinge. This week’s offering should have been about all sorts of entertaining weirdness like Jamie Fox the human scarecrow, French beekeepers finding blue honey in their hives and some nutter called Felix jumping out of a stratospheric balloon while slathered in Blue Stratos. You know, the usual stuff.

Whoops, just re-read that last bit. Should have said “sponsored by Red Bull Stratos”. Not doused in the 70s male grooming product.

Now where were we? The whinge, is where. It concerns First Bus student tickets, and it goes like this.

First Bus sells a Student Photocard, and students can use it to buy discounted bus tickets.

Students, for the purposes of the Photocard, “must be studying full time at a university, college or school.”

Which covers our son, who’s on a full-time course in the sixth form at a school in Bath.

So we took his photo, much to his displeasure, filled in our bit of the application form, got the school to fill in their bit of the form, and were duly issued with a Photocard.

This entitles him (or at least the fabled Bank of Mum and Dad) to buy: a FirstDay Student Bath (£3.40); a FirstWeek Student West (£17.90); a FirstMonth Student West (£70); or a FirstYear Student West (£750).

Now, the FirstYear option would require more quantitative easing than the Bank of England could comfortably afford, never mind the Bank of Mum and Dad.

And half term’s coming, so there’s no sense in buying a monthly if it’s only going to get used for three weeks out of four.

So what would we save if we bought a weekly as opposed to five dailies? None of us is too great at maths, but a minute’s work on the calculator suggests that (£3.40*5)-£17.90=-90p.

Yes, sums fans, five dailies are 90p cheaper than one weekly. All right, the daily only covers Bath, while a weekly lets you roam, free as a bird, to exotic locations like Wells, Devizes and Congresbury. But the main point of buying one of these things is to get Dixon Junior to school and back in one piece, not for him to swan about the darker reaches of the West Country.

And even if you did buy a weekly, when it expires you can’t buy a new one on the bus – you have to go to the bus station. For the cost, presumably, of an additional, undiscounted, adult single fare.

Dailies seem like the obvious choice. But the first time our son tried to buy one, Photocard in hand, the driver said he could only buy a student ticket if he went to the Uni or the Tech. Whatever the “Tech” is.
Where's Bath to?

Quick visit to the First website, where among other things you can discover according to their map, Bath doesn’t exist.

You can find a customer service number in Southampton that gives you the option to press 1 for customer services.

And when you press 1 you get the option to press 1 again. And again. And again. Kafka! Thou shouldst be living at this hour.

And if you persevere, you can also find a phone number for Bath lost property, which is actually the main number for Bath bus station.

Where a very friendly chap says that the driver was wrong and that yes, our son is indeed eligible to buy a daily student ticket.

Whinge over. Now pass the blue honey.


  1. Hi Hugh,

    Last week we had some problems with our telephone menu. Sorry to hear we had you going round in circles, but we've fixed it - by getting rid of the menu all together.

    A FirstWeek Bath ticket costs £17 - the same as buying the five FirstDay tickets, and that can be bought on the bus. For that extra 90p, he could indeed go down to Wells - the cathedral is nice.

    Bath does exist - I've seen it - but it's not on our map because Bristol, Bath, Somerset & Avon are all run as one region, and "Bristol" makes more sense to most people than "BBSA", which is what I normally call it.

    I'm glad that our chap at Bath bus station was useful - and hope he was able to confirm its existence - but did he ask you for the date, time, location and direction of travel of the driver who made the mistake? We'd like to know it so we can correct him.

    I'd advise your son to ask for a FirstWeek Bath ticket when he boards the bus (or, at the start of the next term, a FirstMonth Bath). The adult tickets can be bought on the bus for £17 or £64, and you may find that works out cheapest for you.

    1. Hi First, many thanks for your comments!

      There's nothing in the student travel leaflet we were given at Bath bus station, or that I can find on your website, that mentions a FirstWeek Bath ticket for students.

      And when I asked about weekly student tickets at Bath bus station I was told they were not available to buy on the bus.

      I wasn't asked for any details about the driver who made the mistake, and there haven't been any problems since, so I think it was just a one-off.

      To me as a user of your website (and I suspect to most people in Bath), "Bristol" means "Bristol". Don't get me started on "Avon". It was put out of its misery in 1996 ;-)

      When you hover over Bristol on the map page I linked to, the pop-up doesn't go further east than Longwell Green, and certainly doesn't cover Bath, or Wells, or Taunton or anywhere else in Somerset. (I've added a screen shot to the main blog to illustrate). Bath isn't listed in the pull-down menu below the map either.

      And if you follow the link it takes you to which lists plenty of weekly, monthly and annual e-ticket options for Bristol but only a couple of annual tickets for Bath and other towns in Somerset.

      We'll certainly follow up the FirstWeek Bath option and see if they're available on the bus - it would be a heck of a lot easier than having to find the right change every morning :-)

      Cheers and thanks again for responding,

    2. Sorry, rabbiting on a bit here but...

      At I've just found a First Year Bath Students zones 1, 2 & 3 at £320, which if it's really available is half the price of 40 weeks' worth of adult weekly tickets or 9 months' worth of First Month Student Wests.

      Only trouble is, someone might lose it...

  2. Ahhh now I get it. An adult FirstWeek costs the same as five student FirstDays.