Metro Mayor defends Birthday Bus scheme

Metro mayor Dan Norris has responded to criticism that the Birthday Bus free travel scheme helps the rich, insisting it “needs to be nice for middle-class people” to get them out of cars. 

A report by a taskforce last month warned that the controversial £8million project, which gives passengers free journeys throughout the month of their birthday, was “benefiting the richest 10 per cent significantly more than the poorest 10 per cent”.

The findings by scrutiny councillors at the West of England Combined Authority (Weca), which the Labour mayor heads, said the scheme was also primarily helping those who had not lost their local bus services.

They recommended replacing it with a different fares reduction system targeting residents based on age, employment or income.

But Mr Norris says the main aim is to get drivers out of cars and onto public transport, and that these people tended to be better off because they could afford a vehicle.

He told BBC1’s Politics West: “It [the scheme] is going quite well. We are at an early stage because we are only six months into it and are looking at the early figures.

“But we are approaching half a million journeys, about five per cent of adults have signed up, so I’m hoping that will be 10 per cent by the time 12 months passes.

“The important thing is that it’s getting people out of cars, so they are more wealthy people by definition, but they are changing their behaviour.”

Host David Garmston said on the show: “The criticism has been that it’s just been nice for the middle classes and it’s a benefit targeted at them.”

Mr Norris replied: “It needs to be nice for middle-class people because they tend to be people who drive the most and they need to change their behaviour.

“It is targeted at a whole range of different people, and so far it’s encouraging because it’s showing that people are changing behaviour, making fewer car journeys and getting onto public transport, which is what we desperately need for the environment if you believe there is a climate emergency as I do but it also has this benefit of doing things like helping those in the cost-of-living crisis.

“There are some people who’ve made over 250 journeys in the month of their birthday.”

The Birthday Bus scheme covers Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset – as well as North Somerset. You can register for the free journeys here: