BUS fares in the region are to be radically changed from next month, First Bus has revealed.

The company, the largest provider of bus services in South Gloucestershire, has overhauled the way it calculates fees and from Sunday, July 6 will start charging passengers based on the distance travelled.

Flat rates will be introduced with £1.50, £2.50, £3.50 and £4.50 fares for varying distances up to 12 miles and a maximum rate of £5.50 for all journeys over 12 miles in South Gloucestershire and up to Wotton-under-Edge and Dursley.

The company said the mapping of routes had not yet been completed but would be done in accordance with bus routes, not as the crow flies, to allow for a ‘common sense’ approach.

Under the changes, return fares are to be scrapped completely and instead passengers will be offered a £7 West of England day ticket for unlimited travel on selected services.

Managing director of First West of England, Paul Matthews, said the revisions, in line with changes already introduced in Bristol city centre, were positive on the whole.

He said: “We have worked hard to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from the changes we are making, but accept that there will be a small number of people who may see their fares increase.

“This is especially so where flat fares are introduced as the nature of the beast is that a flat fare has to be set at an average point.

“Once implemented people - be they permanent residents or visitors to the area - will instantly know how much the journey will cost.”

Although some single fares will increase, First said it was bringing back its popular 10-journey ticket for £24.

The changes, which follow a widespread consultation, will give all child passengers a 50 per cent discount and 16 to 21-year-olds in full-time education receive 30 per cent off their fares. Young people in employment can benefit from the same discount with a £10 First ID card.

Added Mr Matthews: “Children, young people and families do especially well out of the changes, something we hope they, and others, will welcome.

“Encouraging younger people to use public transport is especially important to us as it helps engender long-term patterns of behaviour.”

Flat rate fares of £2.20 and £2 are being introduced in Bath and Weston-super-Mare respectively.

Brian Allinson, chairman of the West of England Joint Transport Board and South Gloucestershire councillor for Stoke Gifford, said: “This package of changes is hugely welcomed and on behalf of everyone in the area I’d like to thank First for the time and effort they have put in to gathering views and making the changes.

“They have made First bus fares much simpler and easier to understand which will be a help for everyone who travels by bus. Many people will be paying less than they are now.

“First have listened and reacted, now we all need respond by welcoming the changes and using the bus more.”