Making big savings by bus in Cornwall

18 August 2022
Making big savings by bus in Cornwall

This is a guest post from Philip Desmonde, Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for transport.

Anyone who has visited Cornwall – or those of us who are lucky enough to live here – will know that our communities are spread far and wide, connected by a road network that varies from dual carriageway to single track.  

There is heavy reliance on cars and our transport surveys show that around a quarter (and in some towns, almost half) of all commuter journeys made by car are of less than three miles.   

For some time we at Cornwall Council have been working to improve transport infrastructure to give our residents options for how they travel and to encourage more sustainable options. This isn’t just good for our planet, but also our health and wellbeing. And with ever increasing living costs, it helps our wallets too.  

In April we launched the latest initiative, geared at encouraging more people to travel by bus. This pilot scheme – known as ‘Make Big Savings by Bus’ – has significantly cut the cost of bus travel in Cornwall with fares on average now a third cheaper. And in July we began to roll out ‘tap and cap’ technology on our buses, allowing passengers making contactless payments to ‘tap on and tap off’ – capping their payments so that no matter how many journeys they make, passengers pay no more than £5 a day or £20 a week.     

Our buses and the routes are not only convenient for work and reaching services, but a great way to enjoy your leisure.  

Take a trip on our countryside or coastal routes and experience the fabulous environment. Hop off to look around our historic towns and soak up the Cornish culture and hop on to the next one. Or stop to have a drink and some delicious local fresh food.   

All for just £5 for the day!  

My ideal is to get off at a coastal walk start point, do the walk and enjoy some local fare, then hop on to return a few hours later.  

A first for a local authority, the Make Big Savings by Bus pilot follows our successful bid for £23.5m in government funding and involves bus companies including First South West and Go Cornwall Bus working in partnership as Transport for Cornwall. Initial feedback has been encouraging and I will be looking with interest shortly at data from the first quarter around passenger numbers.   

Public transport in Cornwall has seen substantial improvements since the Council signed a Devolution Deal with government in 2015. The Deal gave Cornwall the control to shape transport services more effectively to the needs of our residents and make journeys less fragmented. This not only brought benefits for bus travel, but rail too. Our partnership with Network Rail, GWR and the Department for Transport has seen upgrades made to the Cornish mainline railway to increase the number of rail services to a half hourly service between Penzance and Plymouth in both directions. This increased frequency has meant we’ve been able to work with our bus operators to improve ongoing connections at train stations.    

Investment to boost passenger numbers has meant many of Cornwall’s buses are among the younger in the country and stops throughout Cornwall feature Real Time Passenger Information displays to give passengers up to the minute information about their journeys. Our fleet reflects the varied geography – from double deckers on our A roads to minibuses on our narrow, winding streets. 

Customers can also use contactless cards to pay for fares with all tickets interchangeable between Cornwall’s bus companies under an “any ticket, any bus” system.   

We’re now waiting to hear the outcome of a £13.3m bid for UK Government National Bus Strategy funding to continue boosting bus services and new and upgraded infrastructure.    

We’ve worked closely with our operators on these improvements and the service we’re able to offer today is a credit to their willingness to be part of the discussions.  

For more information about the Cornwall bus fares pilot visit 


Philip Desmonde is cabinet member for transport at Cornwall Council.