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Bus Services: Concessions

Volume 469: debated on Monday 10 December 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many journeys were made by freedom pass holders on London buses in each of the last five years. (170972)

This information is not held centrally; it can be obtained from the London councils who administer the Freedom Pass scheme on behalf of the London boroughs.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what factors she took into account in distributing the grant to cover the cost of the implementation of the new concessionary fares scheme for bus travel from April 2008; and what representations she has received on the potential inequalities of the distribution of the grant funding; (171019)

(2) what estimate she has made of the ability of councils to pay for the concessionary travel scheme; and whether councils will be required to pay for the costs of visitors to the council area using the concessionary travel scheme.

From 1 April 2008, people aged 60 and over and eligible disabled people in England will be entitled to free off-peak local bus travel anywhere in England, not just within their local area as at present.

The costs will be apportioned to the Travel Concession Authority where the concessionaire boards the bus rather than where the concessionaire is resident—this is the only practical means of operating an England-wide concession for April next year.

The extra £212 million for the national bus concession will be distributed by the Department for Transport via a special grant. This extra funding is based on generous assumptions about pass take-up and trip levels and the overall probable cost impact of the new concession. We are therefore confident this funding will be sufficient in aggregate to meet the extra costs to local authorities. In addition, we have announced that we will be providing local authorities with approximately £31 million for the issuing of the national pass.

Any discretionary local enhancements, such as peak bus travel, are funded from an authority's own resources. Local enhancements can be restricted to eligible local residents. It is for local authorities to implement affordable local schemes taking account of their statutory obligations and their assessment of local circumstances and need.

Regarding representations on the potential inequalities of the distribution of the grant funding, the Department for Transport's consultation on the formula basis for the distribution of the special grant closed on 23 November. The consultation included a number of different options for distributing the new funding, taking account of likely cost drivers, including bus patronage, eligible residents and visitors. A summary of the responses will be published in due course.

The provisional special grant distribution was announced on 6 December and will be the subject of a parliamentary debate in the new year.