Confusion over free bus travel

PUBLISHED: 12:00 10 February 2006 | UPDATED: 21:40 28 May 2010

THE promise of free Fenland bus travel for disabled people and passengers over 60 is being tainted by widespread confusion over journey constraints and time limits. Fenland District Council s cabinet met yesterday (Thursday), in a bid to approve a new dis

THE promise of free Fenland bus travel for disabled people and passengers over 60 is being tainted by widespread confusion over journey constraints and time limits.

Fenland District Council's cabinet met yesterday (Thursday), in a bid to approve a new district concessionary bus scheme which could cost £282,000 instead of last year's £95,000.

Currently, disabled and 60+ passengers can travel half-price throughout Cambridgeshire and Peterborough 24 hours a day. But the new scheme, which must be implemented before April 1, plans to limit free travel to between 9.30am and 11pm on weekdays.

And although free use will be allowed on weekends and Bank holidays - journeys can be made only within Fenland and if travelling further afield, charges will be levied.

Councillors fear this could be punitive for those travelling at peak times and who have to travel outside the district boundary.

The Government has given £350million nationally to push through free travel for over 60s and disabled passengers by April.

All districts in Cambridgeshire can opt for their own personalised scheme, but it will fall to the county council to negotiate with and reimburse bus operators.

Councillor John Reynolds, county cabinet member for environment and community services, said: "We wholly support the principle of free bus travel but the devil is in the detail.

"It would be easier if the Government introduced a simple free service for the whole of the country. These new guidelines are very unhelpful."

County councillors fear people who currently travel at half price during morning peak times might have to pay full price for the same journey.

As prices will be set district by district, councillors are also worried that varying prices could apply in different authorities-leading to confusion as buses travel from district to district or even into the next county.

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