The Scottish Government’s proposal to raise the eligibility age for concessionary travel could have a damaging effect on bus services in South-West Scotland, SWestrans, the area’s regional transport partnership, has warned.
Responding to Transport Scotland’s concessionary fares consultation (LTT 15 Sep), SWestrans says that any raising of the age eligibility criteria could see the number of bus journeys fall.
Sad to hear, but
Councillors in the Borders have backed increasing the age at which people are eligible for a free bus pass to the state pension age.
The Scottish government is consulting on changing the qualification criteria.
It could mean people aged 60 and over would not automatically be entitled to free bus travel in Scotland.
Scottish Borders Council backed increasing the age but also wanted to ensure people with disabilities kept getting the pass regardless of age.
However, in neighbouring Dumfries and Galloway the region’s transport partnership – Swestrans – has urged no changes to the scheme.
It has said any move to raise the age level could threaten local services.
The consultation on any changes was announced earlier this year.
It could see the scheme – introduced in 2006 – extended to Modern Apprentices and those on Job Grants but it is looking at the “long-term sustainability” of offering all those over 60 free travel.
It is a maligned mode of transport, but the bus is helping to drive Scotland’s economy, says Martyn McLaughlin. With an unrivalled location on the Black Isle’s north-west coast and panoramic views of the Cromarty Firth, it should come as no surprise that the village of Culbokie is increasingly favoured by those who work in Inverness. On a good day, it takes a little over 20 minutes to skirt across the Kessock bridge, a commute well worth it for the chance to reside in one of Scotland’s most picturesque spots.
The only caveat, however, is that you need a car. In April, Stagecoach withdrew its service after losing out in a Highland Council re-tendering exercise. Now, residents in the rural nook who wish to travel to Inverness by public transport are forced to traipse nearly two miles to flag down a passing service, and even then, their window of opportunity is limited. According to Norlil Charlton, a member of a local action group battling to get a direct service reinstated, it is impossible to get to Inverness before 10am, or return to Culbokie after 2:30pm. The only alternative is to hitch a lift, or pay around £50 for a round trip in a taxi. At least one family has moved to Cromarty as a result.
Read more at: http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/martyn-mclaughlin-public-buses-are-lifeline-and-vital-to-scots-economy-1-4589528
A GLASGOW MSP is asking constituents to help him with a dilemma of ageing.
John Mason wants to find out if people think he should apply for a free bus pass as he has just turned 60.
Mr Mason, while agreeing with the concessionary travel scheme, said he is in a well-paid job and can easily afford the bus fare.
He is grappling with the decision of using what he is entitled to or accepting something for free at a cost to the public purse, which on a MSP salary of almost £62,000 he can afford to pay for.
Councils are spending £200m a year subsidising the concessionary bus fares scheme, new analysis has revealed.
The Local Government Association (LGA) warned the scheme has been underfunded for years by central government, and is being financially topped up by councils at the expense of other discretionary services.
In a new report – due to be published later this week – the LGA is calling on the Government to fully fund the concessionary fares scheme and give councils control over the Bus Service Operators’ Grant.
Cllr Martin Tett, LGA transport spokesman, said: ‘Faced with significant funding pressures, many across the country are being forced into taking difficult decisions to scale back services and review subsidised routes.
‘The way the concessionary travel scheme is funded by Whitehall has not kept up with growing demand and cost. By giving councils control over the Bus Service Operators’ Grant, and properly funding the free bus pass schemes the government could help us support and maintain our essential bus services, reduce congestion and protect vital routes.’
Thousands of over-60s normally eligible for free bus travel could now have to pay to ride due to a massive backlog in renewing permits.
People are facing delays of up to 28 days as Lincolnshire County Council deals with 6,000 applications a month rather than the usual 1,200 to 1,500.
This is because 67,000 passes are due to expire this year and demand is high despite the council advising people as early as last autumn to apply six months before expiry dates. It normally takes up to 10 days to issue a renewed pass.
Read more at http://www.lincolnshirelive.co.uk/thousands-of-over-60s-face-waiting-up-to-28-days-for-free-bus-pass-renewal-in-lincolnshire/story-30285097-detail/story.html#hMQ2ggA5ytRMqJUD.99
Earlier this year The Sunday Post revealed how the Scottish Government is planning to increase the eligibility age for the popular concessionary travel scheme.
It is expected this will see the minimum age rise from 60 to 65 with current pass-holders unaffected.
Figures released under freedom of information laws show that last year £45m of the £187.7m spent on the free bus pass scheme was accounted for by users in the 60 to 64 age bracket.
Around one in five holders of the free bus pass are between the ages of 60 and 64, with many of them working commuters.
Meanwhile, a new poll has revealed the majority of older Scots have backed the age increase.
Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman Neil Bibby MSP said: “The SNP is failing passengers up and down the country.
“Under the nationalists, vital services have been cut while ticket prices have gone up. Communities have been left stranded as key routes have been scrapped.