West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has been given a commitment that the new national concessionary travel bus pass will give pensioners and disabled users greater freedom to use local buses in next year. Rosie raised the issue with Transport Secretary, Douglas Alexander MP, during the parliamentary debate on the concessionary travel bill on Monday 14 May.
The new bus pass will mean the over-60s and disabled residents in West Lancashire will have the same access to free bus services as the rest of the country. At the moment they are limited within the West Lancashire boundaries except to Southport & Ormskirk Hospital. If they want to Wigan and Southport for shopping they are required to pay for the excess part of the journey. The Labour Government’s new pass will mean boundaries are no longer a problem and pensioners can come and go on local buses as they please.
“It is excellent news for many aged 60 and over, and disabled people, will get free off-peak travel on all local buses anywhere in England from April 2008. The current provision on allows pass holders to travel free on buses in their own local authority. This announcement means more freedom and choice for thousands of people in West Lancashire and is a major commitment from the Government.”
“I have been contacted by many local residents asking why they were limited to free travel within West Lancashire when their nearest shops and services are in the neighbouring local authority area’s of Southport and Wigan. This has meant that they have to pay extra to travel over the boundary because the Lancashire local authorities could not agree to a scheme which would operate over the whole of Lancashire.”
West Lancashire District Council was a ‘net gainer’ as it was given £900,000 by the Government to fund the new bus pass scheme, which was estimated to cost £700,000. Calls from Rosie and many residents have shamed the Conservative-controlled District Council into using more of the funding to pay for cross-boundary travel to Southport hospital but next year the new local bus pass will mean they can get to the shops and meet up with friends at no extra cost.