Celebrations for fair transport scheme
PENSIONERS in the Fens were celebrating today after transport chiefs from across Cambridgeshire joined forces to scrap an ill thought out Government bus pass scheme and replace it with a much fairer system. The highly criticised current scheme, set down b
PENSIONERS in the Fens were celebrating today after transport chiefs from across Cambridgeshire joined forces to scrap an ill thought out Government bus pass scheme and replace it with a much fairer system.
The highly criticised current scheme, set down by Government, has meant people aged 60 or over, as well as those with disabilities, could only travel free in their own district.
Now County, District and City Council chiefs as well as bus operators in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have hammered out a deal to deliver a free countywide scheme - this allows eligible passengers to cross district and city boundaries in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough for free.
Government distributed funding for the scheme to district and city councils rather than a central pot which led to a confusing system and many passengers out of pocket.
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Cambridgeshire County Council led the negotiations which has meant Cambridge City, East Cambridgeshire District, Fenland District, Huntingdonshire District, Peterborough City and South Cambridgeshire District Councils have agreed to join forces so bus pass holders can travel for free across their borders.
Despite getting no money from Government for concessionary bus fares the County Council has also agreed to cover any overspend.
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This has been made possible because the County Council is on target to meet tough Government targets for increasing passengers on buses which will attract financial rewards.
Bus operators have also played their part in agreeing to financially back the new scheme which is due to be introduced in early October if not sooner.
Transport chiefs and the public have criticised the Government imposed scheme for the confusing way it was financed and brought in.
All the Councils have agreed to carry on calling for Government to implement a much fairer system when the scheme changes to a national one in 2008.
The new system will mean bus pass holders in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will be able to travel for free across district and city council borders between 9.30am and to the last bus, Monday to Friday and all day at the weekend and bank holidays.
Cambridgeshire County Councillor John Reynolds, Cabinet Member for Environment and Community Services Said: "I would like to applaud the district and city councils and bus operators that have worked with us to introduce this new scheme.
"I would also like to thank the media for taking on the fight for a better deal for pensioners and continuing to urge Government to implement a much better thought out national scheme.
"This Government scheme was ill conceived and has made many people worse off. Improving public transport is vital for Cambridgeshire's future prosperity and I am pleased we have all worked together to find a much better solution."
Fenland District Councillor Mac Cotterell said: "This is good news for all. We have always been supportive of a countywide scheme and are glad we could do our part and make this happen.
"This will benefit Fenland in many ways, not only will local residents be able to travel across the County for free but also it will encourage visitors from other districts to come to Fenland and enjoy our beautiful towns and countryside.
"However, this is not the end of the story we will continue to pressure Government to bring in a much better and comprehensive system in 2008.