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Concessionary bus pass review agreed in bid to allow free travel before 9.30am, Tories warn change could cost "millions"

By jrmaidment  |  Posted: March 20, 2014

Comments (12)

A bid to make concessionary bus travel “fairer” by allowing people to travel for free before 9.30am could only be funded by taking money away from other services.

That’s the message from the leader of Gloucestershire County Council Mark Hawthorne after the authority agreed to review the way bus passes for the elderly and disabled work.

At the moment concessionary bus travel allows pensioners and the disabled to free travel on the county’s buses during off-peak times – any when after 9.30am in the morning.

But many people believe the 9.30am rule is unfair because it forces vulnerable people to pay for their journey if they need to get anywhere during the morning rush hour.

The county’s Labour group has secured a commitment from the county council to look at the possibility of changing the rule to allow for travel from 8.30am onwards.

But the Conservative administration warned any such move would have significant financial implications, possibly “running into millions of pounds”.

Lesley Williams, the leader of the Labour group, said: “The 09.30am rule, which prevents older people and people with disabilities from using their bus pass, causes considerable inconvenience to many people living in Gloucestershire.

“Today many of our pensioners use their bus passes to go to work and attend medical appointments and they see the 09.30am rule as an unnecessary hindrance.

“Equally, people with disabilities are disenfranchised from using their bus pass to travel to work or college.

“We realise what we are asking will cost money. We realise it will mean that on some routes services may have to be increased. But we also realise that this is an issue that can no longer be ignored.”

The county council is required by law to provide concessionary travel.

Its current agreement is with the bus operator Stagecoach.

Mr Hawthorne said making the change could cause issues with capacity on rush hour buses.

He also stressed the fact the council doesn’t have any spare cash lying around to pay for relaxing the rule.

He said: “We need to understand the wider implications of doing this but we are happy to take it away and come back with some sensible recommendations – if we can find any.”

Councillor Will Windsor Clive (C, Newent), cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure, said changing the rule “could be very expensive indeed”.

“This money would have to come from somewhere and we have not allocated any money for this as part of our next budget,” he said.

Independent Councillor Mike Styzmiak (Tewkesbury) described changing the time to 8.30am as “arbitrary”.

The council voted in favour of reviewing the bus passes at a meeting on Wednesday.

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  • interociter  |  October 06 2014, 9:10AM

    When I use the service in the Tewkesbury area at around 07:30 before 09:30 the buses are normally carrying about five passengers on a good day. It may well be peak time on paper but not in practice.

  • norman937  |  April 15 2014, 6:55PM

    If the conservatives are truly worried about the millions it would cost.Then why is the mobility boss and the HS2 boss,who has not got a job yet,being paid one million six hundred thousand yearly out of public funds.To say little about call me Dave employing his old school mates on one hundred thousand a year also out of public funds,seems like a case of fill your boots lads 2015 is getting closer.

  • EllJay1  |  March 21 2014, 2:19PM

    You can certainly make doctor's appointments after 9.30 but hospital clinic appointments are frequently made by the hospital and and the first time you know when it will be is when you get the letter. You then have to cancel and get it rescheduled. When you get the new appointment it comes with a warning which effectively means that if you have to cancel again you go to the end of the list. Life was so much easier when you made the next appointment in person at the end of the visit, could pick an appropriate time slot, then make a note in your diary and book holidays etc around it.

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  • Richardburton  |  March 20 2014, 6:06PM

    As these people can make Dr's Appointment /Hospital after 9.30 am they should be encouraged to do so if they want to use the bus before 9.30 am then perhaps they should either pay full fare or something towards the extra costs. Many people who HAVE to go to work and earn a low wage has to pay to get to work they have no choice as they can't afford to run a car. If young people who have disablity's have to get to college then perhaps they pay outof their disablity money or most colleges have a minibus so could try and find a way to book this?

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  • North Glos EPC  |  March 20 2014, 4:13PM

    Roadwombat, you are absolutely correct. Extend this perk to travel before 9.30 and the cost will be such that money is sucked away from other deserving areas. I see concessionary travel as a civilized benefit to thank those who have contributed during their working lives and a civilized benefit to enable the disabled to get about. The least the recipients of these concessions can do to show a bit of gratitude is keep the buses free for the commuter. If you're a pensioner have a bit of a lie in go out a bit later, you'll probably almost get a bus to yourself.

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  • RoadWombat  |  March 20 2014, 3:35PM

    Correction - yes, I do know how to spell "fare" but the darn thing defaulted to the wrong spelling!

  • RoadWombat  |  March 20 2014, 3:33PM

    This has turned on its head by what may be termed "mission creep". Let me explain. Many moons ago, someone came up with the excellent idea of letting certain people (retired, disabled etc.) have a concession of cheaper travel on public transport. This they were given, on the provision that they travelled outside of the peak times when the buses were busy with people who needed to get to school or work. No-one stopped the recipients of the concession from travelling at peak time, they'd just have to pay the full fair. "Fair enough", the recipients of the concession said, "that sounds good to me". Everyone was happy. Now that time has passed, the original (and very grateful) recipients of the concession have largely gone and the present recipients, never having known what it was like before the scheme, aren't in the least bit grateful, but see the concession as a "right". And they go further, now claiming that it is "unfair" that they can't travel at the concessionary rate at peak times as well, forgetting entirely why the scheme was set up in the way it was in the first place. What's the old adage - "give someone an inch and they'll take a mile..."?

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  • honslknjklyt  |  March 20 2014, 1:00PM

    Very much agree TMY 68

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  • SandraPee  |  March 20 2014, 12:54PM

    It's NOT people aged 60 now, it's people of pensionable age .......... which isn't 60 any more .

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  • Tmy68  |  March 20 2014, 12:01PM

    Don't do it. Stagecoach has never managed to accurately record free travel as no fee is charged. They can record how many get on but not the journey they took. It is in their interest to be in this position as they receive more money from the estimates that are made. The free travel was designed for hard up retired pensioners not to subsidise still working ones. I think the assumption was, as they were retired, they could organise appointments after 9.30 and it would not impact on peak travel. It wouldn't be just the additional charges for travel either, Stagecoach will demonstrate a capacity issue which will result in them having to buy extra vehicles, I believe there is provision within the scheme rules that allow them to ask for this capital investment. Buses aren't cheap, as Swanbrook can testify this week. Without doubt though free bus travel is a VOTE CATCHER, 2015, that I could do without paying for.

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