First launches Book My Bus Ride space reservation trial

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First Bus has launched a trial in Bath and Bristol of a system for booking spaces on scheduled buses. Christened Book My Bus Ride, it will debut on the Brislington park-and-ride route and will extend to two further routes by 10 August.

The pilot is being undertaken by First West of England. Bookings can be made from seven days to as little as 15 minutes before departure, subject to space being available.

Reservations will be made via a dedicated website that launches at 1800hrs on 27 July. Customers have the option of buying a ticket at the same time or booking at no extra cost if they have pre-paid for travel or are a concessionary passholder travelling after 0900hrs.

Book My Bus Ride secures a space – not a specific seat

The reservation secures a space on a chosen journey, not a specific seat. An email confirmation is generated that can be either scanned onboard or shown alongside a pre-paid ticket. Customers who are not able to use a website may call a dedicated number between 0900-1700hrs, Monday to Friday.

Bookings will be possible for all weekday journeys on the Brislington park-and-ride service. The concept will be extended to weekday journeys on the 3A between Batheaston and Weston in Bath from 3 August. It wll capture morning and afternoon weekday peak journeys on the T1 between Bristol and Thornbury from 10 August.

Bookable journeys on the latter two routes will be renumbered 3B and T1B to denote that the facility is available. On all journeys were reservations are possible, just under 50% of the socially distanced capacity will be available to book. The remainder will be for ‘turn up and go’ customers.

Functionality may be integrated into app if trial successful

Says First Bus Managing Director Giles Fearnley: “This trial of booking spaces on our buses is part of a focus on digitalising our services so that we can make travel easy, comfortable and safe.

“We are investing significantly in digital technologies to drive up the customer experience by providing better information to our passengers so they can make informed travel choices.”

The introduction of reservable spaces follows updates to the First Bus app that allow customers to check both seat availability and whether the wheelchair user space is occupied while waiting.

First West of England MD James Freeman adds that if the reservation trial is successful, First hopes to integrate the technology into its app, as well as onboard ticketing software. That will “revolutionise both the customer and driver experience,” he says.