Concessionary Fares – the long journey is over.

Do you remember all the fuss about Concessionary Fares?  That’s where a perfectly good local concessionary fare scheme allowed elderly people to travel for reduced fares on buses safter 9am.

Then the government intervened with a bright idea.

From 1st April (there’s interesting!) 2008 the Government introduced its new national scheme.. The Department for Transport explains it thus:

On April 1st 2008 the local entitlement for free bus travel was extended to allow bus travel throughout England. It means that whether using the bus locally, or when visiting other parts of the country, older and disabled people will be able to travel for free. (click link to read the full story)

So to summarise, whilst the bad news was that the scheme would run from 9.30am rather than 9am, the good news was that the same concessionary pass would allow you to travel the length and breadth of the country.

Of course, most elderly, disabled and vulnerable people didn’t much want to travel to John O’Groats or Land’s End.  They wanted to go to their doctor, or to the hospital, and they wanted to get a bus around 9am.  Because in the rural areas, there might only be one bus an hour, and if the scheme didn’t start until 9.30am, it might be 10am or 10.30 before they could even start their journey.  But at least they can travel the length and breadth of the country.

Except they can’t.  Because just twelve months on, the Government has changed it’s mind.  From April 1st concessionary fare passes will no longer be valid on bus routes where “more than 51% of the seats can be pre-booked”.  In other words, on most long-distance bus services.  See the excellent (yes, I am joking) DirectGov website:

Local authorities may still offer further benefits to local residents, such as free travel during peak times or reduced rail travel, but these will only apply for travel in the local area, and not everywhere in England. Check with your local authority to find out whether it offers these extra services. If it does, there may be a charge for the pass, but your local authority must still offer you the option of a normal concessionary bus pass at no charge. (click the link to see full story)

Well done Gordon “travel for free on any local bus across England” Brown, and congratulations to Alistair “free off-peak bus travel in every area of the country” Darling. Hundreds of thousands of elderly and disabled people will I am sure want to demonstrate their gratitude in a practical way.

At the ballot box.

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