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Vulnerable Passengers

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 4 March 2008

9. If she will undertake a review of the extent to which public and community transport services meet the needs of vulnerable passengers. (190980)

Good public transport is key to reducing social exclusion. That is why £2.5 billion a year is invested by central Government and local government to support buses and community transport services.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that response. Will she encourage local councils such as those in County Durham to use the measures in the Local Transport Bill to make greater use of community transport in their plans to improve bus services locally? Does she agree not only that that would improve access to public transport for isolated and vulnerable communities in my constituency, but that it could meet their needs more fully than standard commercial services?

My hon. Friend is a great advocate of public transport in her constituency and she is right to say that the Bill contains measures to help to improve community transport services. For example, it will allow community bus permits, which will enable payment for people who run community bus services. At the moment, there are certain restrictions on that, but the Bill will allow payment of community drivers in such circumstances. That is exactly the kind of service that could be a solution in rural areas and could be particularly applicable to vulnerable people who are perhaps isolated in such areas. It could be a good solution to some of the transport problems that they face.

Will the Minister give a commitment to the House today and perhaps even agree to meet with me and some representatives from Shropshire councils over the concessionary bus scheme? She will be aware that there is real concern among those on disability living allowance on the lower rate, carers who are travelling without those they are caring for and also those with mental health disorders who are socially excluded from the new scheme. Will she meet me to discuss those important issues?

I shall certainly agree to meet the hon. Gentleman. The criteria for qualification for the concessionary bus pass were laid down in the Transport Act 2000, and I am happy to send him the details of those. They cover a number of people with disabilities, and there is discretion for local authorities to extend the scheme if they wish to do so. I am more than happy to explain the details of that scheme to him.