Bus fares are to rise for the fourth time in three years.

Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company is to hike the price of a single and day saver ticket by 20p. The policy of charging more for tickets before 9am will be scrapped and higher fares will be introduced all day, so a single will go from £1.50 to £1.70 and an all day ticket from £3 to £3.20.

Passengers were shocked and angered by the decision, which comes just weeks after the firm promised it had no plans to raise fares.

The new prices will come into effect from September 23.

Peter Elvidge, of Wish Road, Hove, Central Sussex spokesman for the independent passengers' body Bus Users UK, said: "This is a shock price increase which bus users won't be happy with.

"The last increase was I think January so it has only been nine months.

"They came to our last meeting in July and said they had no intention of putting up prices."

Passenger Patricia Venour, 59, of Southon Close, Mile Oak, already walks to her local shops to save on the fare.

She said: "I think it's scandalous. Just down to Boundary Road is £3. You can get all the way into Brighton and Hove for that."

Mrs Venour thought the bus company might be trying to make up money it has lost after having to allow pensioners to travel free of charge.

The news comes as a rival bus service was launched in Brighton today, with services running regularly from Falmer Station to Brighton Station from Saturday at 7am. The Big Lemon will charge £1 for a single or £2 for a day ticket.

Managing director Tom Druitt thought it was a shame Brighton was putting up its prices.

He said: "It means people are discouraged from using the buses. I don't think it is good for passengers. Brighton and Hove is a bit more expensive than other places. That is something we hope we can combat with a bit of competition."

Brighton and Hove Buses has blamed rising fuel costs. Big Lemon will run on recycled cooking oil.

Roger French, managing director of Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company, said: "Our fares give excellent value. Most people buy the one day saver ticket or the week saver and those prices are cheaper than they were 15 years ago. That is what we would encourage people to do and it is happening more and more.

"We have reduced a number of fares over the last 12 months. It is the case that the cost of fuel has increased and we regret we have to pass on some of that cost."

The budget city centre single will be put up from £1 to £1.20 but the area it covers will be extended.

Mr French said the changes had not been finalised and services might be expanded.

Next year the smart card, similar to the London Oyster card, will be introduced,.

The best price, £2.80 for a day saver, is the same as it was in 1988, although in those days a return ticket was much cheaper. The cheapest deals are available on the firm's website, where there is a seven day £10 ticket, the same price as in 1990. This might be revised.

Geoffrey Theobald, chairman of the city council's environment committee, said: "No company wants to put up their prices. We have a first class bus service in this city."

An all-day ticket for bus travel in Nottingham is £2.70, in Cardiff £3, in Swindon £2.50 or £3.20 for a wider area.

But in Bristol a day saver is £4 or £3.70 after 9am, in Portsmouth it is £3.60, Southampton £3.40 and in Manchester the fee varies from £2.70 to £4.

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