Problems of the free' bus

PUBLISHED: 12:40 16 February 2006 | UPDATED: 11:33 04 May 2010

AN ambitious Government promise to give all over 60s free bus travel is proving a logistical headache for East Cambridgeshire. The scheme, which Whitehall transport chiefs are pushing to come into force in April, could leave pensioners throughout the dist

AN ambitious Government promise to give all over 60s free bus travel is proving a logistical headache for East Cambridgeshire.

The scheme, which Whitehall transport chiefs are pushing to come into force in April, could leave pensioners throughout the district paying more.

Now council chiefs are putting their concerns to the Department of Transport claiming the scheme leaves them facing problems over the practical details.

Unlike large cities where most routes are run by one bus operator, services throughout Cambridgeshire are run by a series of different companies, some operating just one or two rural routes.

At the moment passengers over 60 pay just 50 per cent of fares to travel anywhere in the county.

Under the Government scheme travellers would get free tickets within East Cambridgeshire but be left paying full fares outside the district.

If a free bus journey overlapped with a route outside East Cambridgeshire they would need a full priced ticket to complete their trip.

East Cambridgeshire District Council has an additional budget of £126,000 to implement the Government scheme and officers have promised free travel within the district for all over 60s by April.

But discussions are still ongoing with operators to try to find a countywide scheme which would offer concessions across all district borders.

East Cambridgeshire District Council's environment and transport committee chairman, Cllr Brian Ashton, said: "We are working with the county and the other district councils to try to see if we can come up with a coherent scheme across the whole county. But this is proving to be exceedingly difficult and we do not know whether we can provide such an arrangement until all the negotiations with the various operators are complete.

"We are currently trying to ensure that no-one will be disadvantaged by the change of scheme in relation to journeys outside the district."

East Cambridgeshire District Council finance director, Alex Colyer, said: "The Government scheme to offer the over-60s free bus travel in the district will be available from April.

"Now we are in negotiation with the major bus operators to work out what concessions can be offered outside the district.

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