Use buses or lose them

I RECENTLY attended a pensioners meeting regarding the provision of free bus transport for over 60s. With much effort, pensioner campaigning groups, in particular the National Pensioners Convention, have lobbied Government and pushed the provision fro

I RECENTLY attended a pensioners' meeting regarding the provision of "free" bus transport for over 60s. With much effort, pensioner campaigning groups, in particular the National Pensioners' Convention, have lobbied Government and pushed the provision from half fares to full. From April 2008, pensioners will be entitled to nationwide free bus travel after 9.30am throughout England.

Pensioners in some districts with trams and metro systems will be restricted to buses only. (It will be interesting to see if the guided bus is a bus or a tram for fare purposes.)

Also the use of long distance coaches will not be included (although coach operators are in favour of eventual inclusion, since pensioners tend to accompany paying passengers). The Secretary of State has discretionary powers to adjust provision once the new scheme is in operation.

The integration of English bus travel with Scottish and Welsh systems isn't clear. The Welsh already have a national system, which includes the various light railways within their borders. (I recently spoke to some Shropshire pensioners, who have a really complicated life on the buses dipping into Wales and Herefordshire.)

Giving pensioners better access to public transport makes a lot of sense. It takes cars off the road and allows pensioners, who provide a lot of unpaid child care, to take their grandchildren out. There will still be problems for pensioners with hospital appointments before 9.30am.

Our eventual goal is a Freedom Pass to allow pensioners free surface transport throughout the UK.

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Hopefully, with more pensioners wanting to use buses, the bus companies will improve the service. Meanwhile I urge all pensioners to make use of the provision. I firmly believe in the old adage "use it or lose it" and, who knows, it could help to save the planet.

TONY DUTTON, Secretary, Huntingdon NUT Retired Section, Weir Road, Hemingford Grey

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