Free bus travel for disabled people.
Thursday, 23 February 2012 14:34
A scheme that gives disabled passengers free peak-time bus travel in Cumbria is to be extended.
Disabled people and pensioners are entitled only to free off-peak travel under the national concessionary fares scheme funded by the Government.
Off peak is defined as 9.30am-11pm on Mondays to Fridays and all day at weekends.
This restriction hits disabled passengers who need to travel before 9.30am on weekdays to get to work, training or day-care services.
That prompted Cumbria County Council to launch the 24/7 Disabled Persons’ NowCard last June, which allows free bus travel all day to eligible users.
It says the initiative has been so successful it will be extended beyond April into the 2012-13 financial year.
Councillor Tim Knowles, the county council cabinet member responsible for passenger transport, said: “We have decided that we will extend round-the-clock free bus travel for disabled people.
“This is in line with the council’s priorities of protecting the most vulnerable and extending the life chances of the most disadvantaged.”
There are 670 people with 24/7 Disabled Persons’ NowCards in Cumbria.
Cardholders are also entitled to apply for a companion card if they are unable to travel without assistance.
Existing cardholders can extend their 24/7 Disabled Persons’ NowCards until April 2013, provided they are still eligible. All should have been contacted to explain the scheme is being extended.
Application forms are available from the libraries in Carlisle, Workington, Whitehaven and Penrith, online at www.cumbria.gov.uk/ or by calling 01228 226720 or 226705.
Confirmation that the scheme has been extended comes as a national petition calling for local authorities to be properly reimbursed for providing concessionary travel is handed into 10 Downing Street.
Cumbria is among the local authorities backing the Fair Fares campaign.
The petition contains 23,500 signatures, including many from Cumbria.
Cumbria gets a government grant of £7.2m to fund concessionary travel but will this year fork out £8m to reimburse bus operators for carrying concessions.
Mr Knowles added: “It is fundamentally unfair that the Government is expecting local authorities to plug the gap in their funding for something which people are legally, and rightfully, entitled to.
“My fear is that it will be everyday residents who will suffer as a result of this shortfall as there’s less money to support bus services in rural areas, which aren’t commercially sustainable without our support.”
First published at 10:31, Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 February 2012 14:40