Students have been urged to "boycott the bus" after returning for the new academic year only to discover that a £1 bus fare is being scrapped.

Detailed talks between the Falmouth University, University of Exeter, FXPlus and the Student Union have failed to persuade First Bus to continue the £1 walk-on bus fare, which offered a subsidised bus service between campuses for university card holders.

This was subsidised by the universities from revenue raised in its car parks, to encourage sustainable travel amongst students.

The universities said this was a "commercial decision" by First, which had decided to move all payments through its app and was instead introducing ticket bundles.

The car park money would instead be used to provide every student with a free travel gift, worth up to £50 depending on the gift chosen, that could be claimed via the First Bus app.

However, a Facebook page has now been set up by Billy Rickards, called "Boycott The Bus - Reverse First Kernow Decision to End Subsidies."

Explaining it, he said: "The only way to reverse this decision is to cause mass outcry from the student populace and boycott the buses.

"If enough students stop using the buses and instead use the train, walk, cycle etc then First Kernow will begin to lose a lot of money.

"Students provide a huge amount of income for First Kernow; taking this away will be an effective way of bringing them and the university back to negotiation to form a new contract for subsidised student bus travel."

A petition has also been set up by Penryn town councillor Kurt Ruby on, called "Stop ripping off students and bring back the £1 bus fare," has been signed more than 2,100 times.

Among the comments left on the petition is one student saying: "I want to study and not have to worry about if I have to choose between eating and going to lectures."

Another person has written: "With the high uni fees and crazy rental prices this adds more stress and financial burden."

Read more: Solution for rural students whose school bus is being axed

But the universities said in many cases the changes should actually work out cheaper for students.

A spokesperson for Falmouth University, speaking on behalf of the University of Exeter also, told the Packet: "First Bus Kernow’s commercial decision to move towards payments via their app meant that although Falmouth University and the University of Exeter wanted to protect the £1 fare between Falmouth and Penryn Campus, it was not possible to do so.

"Instead, to maintain our support for sustainable travel, the Student Union and the universities have worked with First Bus to find the best possible option.

"The result is that the universities are investing the same money as last year in bus travel and are offering staff and students up to £50 worth of free travel through the new app.

"We are pleased that for many staff and students that travel between Falmouth and the Penryn campuses every day, buying tickets via the app and including the £50 travel offer, means that the buses will be cheaper than last year."

A walk-on fare will instead be £2.40 for a single journey from Falmouth to Penryn Campus, or £3.60 for a return.

This is cheaper than the current rate as First have incorporated Penryn Campus into the Falmouth and Penryn Town Zone, but more expensive than buying a bundle of days for students planning to travel to campus via bus on a regular basis.

Bundles cost £15 for any five days of travel, or £50 for any 20 days over the course of a year. Alternatively there is a £13 bundle for seven consecutive days, or a £45 that covers travel for one calendar month.

The universities' spokesperson also touched on changes to the Fal Uni Mussel Card, saying: "Separately, increasing the cost of the Mussel Card was not something that the universities could affect, but a decision for Fal River Cornwall.

"We have however managed to negotiate a 25 per cent discount. Any students worried about their financial situation should contact the Compass helpdesk, who can provide them with advice."

A spokesman for Fal River Cornwall said their contract with First was ending, with the card in its current format and £480 price only on sale until September 8. 

He added: "This was a commercially driven decision, not by us."

After this date First will be running an equivalent 'bundle' of unlimited bus, train and ferry travel for £74.25 - an annual cost of £891. 

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