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Bus Services: Concessions

Volume 473: debated on Wednesday 12 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations she has received on the withdrawal of concessionary bus fares for people with mental health problems as a result of the introduction of the national concessionary bus travel scheme in (a) Derbyshire and (b) other areas; and if she will make a statement. (189737)

A number of representations about changes to local, discretionary concessionary bus travel schemes have been directed to my Department. This includes representations about Derbyshire's decision to continue to fund only elements of their local discretionary travel scheme.

The Transport Act 2000 sets out the eligibility criteria for statutory concessionary bus travel, covering any person who: is blind or partially sighted; is profoundly or severely deaf; is without speech; has a disability, or has suffered an injury, which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to walk; does not have arms or has long-term loss of the use of both arms; has a learning disability that is a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind which includes significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning; or would, if he or she applied for a grant of a licence to drive a motor vehicle under Part III of the Road Traffic Act 1988, have his or her application refused pursuant to section 92 of the Act (physical fitness) otherwise than on the ground of persistent misuse of drugs or alcohol.

Local authorities retain the ability to offer discretionary concessions over and above this statutory minimum at their own expense, these including offering concessionary travel to other categories of people such as those with mental health problems.

Central Government are responsible for the England-wide statutory minimum concession which, from 1 April, is being improved to allow eligible people free off-peak local bus travel anywhere in England. We are providing £212 million to local authorities to cover the additional cost of this, and are confident that in total there is sufficient funding to cover the whole cost of this concession.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether she has held discussions with the Welsh Assembly Government Minister for the Economy and Transport, on the extension of free cross-border bus travel for pensioners between England and Wales; and if she will make a statement. (193011)

I have not held discussions with the Minister for the Economy and Transport in Wales about further extensions to concessionary travel. The Government’s current focus remains on ensuring the successful introduction of the new England-wide concession on 1 April.

The complexity and cost associated with mutual recognition is likely to be considerable. There are issues around how operators will be properly reimbursed (given the differing arrangements in place), by whom, and whether the terms of the different concessions would have to be harmonised (which would be very expensive). These issues will be much easier to address once full smart ticketing is in place on all buses.

In the interim, local authorities in border areas retain the flexibility to fund cross-border travel for their own residents at their own discretion.