First accepts Bristol Pounds

In what is thought to be a first for public transport, First in the West of England has started accepting Bristol Pounds as payment for travel on its buses. Any change owed will be paid where possible in Bristol Pounds, although it is most likely to be tendered in sterling. Passengers will also be able to use Bristol Pound’s ‘Txt2Pay’ service in First’s Travel Shop in the city’s bus station. The operator has now signed up as an Associate of the scheme, which is run as a not for profit partnership between Bristol Credit Union and Bristol Pound Community Interest Company. Full membership of the project, with voting rights at the Bristol Credit Union, is largely reserved for locally owned businesses and individuals living in and around the city. However, First has been allowed to join as a non-voting associate.

Bristol’s own currency was unveiled in September 2012. Like similar schemes in the UK, the Bristol Pound is intended to help keep money in the area’s economy, so as part of its membership First in West of England is also committed to using any Bristol Pounds it collects to pay for some of those local services it uses. For instance, the company will use money collected to help pay its business rates to Bristol City Council and will be looking at other ways the local money can be re-spent, for instance through its staff canteens. In addition the company has also pledged to offer staff the chance to be paid in Bristol Pounds if they would like to take some or all of their wages in this way.

Interim MD for First in West of England, Paul Matthews, said, ‘We believe we are the first bus company in the UK to sign up to join a local currency scheme so this represents an exciting time for us. Before we signed up we’d had a few requests from Bristol Pound users for us to accept the currency on the buses, mainly asking us through our Twitter account if we’d consider it. They recognised, as did the people behind the Bristol Pound, that having the money accepted on buses gives the scheme an added level of visibility. We are pleased that we’ve been able to follow through on this and we’re delighted to be able to launch our involvement in the scheme. The Bristol Pound has been going for a year and it has developed a loyal following. We hope that in working with the organisers we can help to increase usage further, providing a welcome boost for the local economy at the same time.’

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