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Travel: Concessions

Volume 476: debated on Monday 19 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what the reason was for her issue of advice to local authorities on 14 February for them to order temporary concessionary travel passes; (206306)

(2) when she was first informed that Smartcard passes might not be ready by 1 April 2008;

(3) what the reasons are for the time taken to produce the Smartcard passes for the concessionary travel scheme; what assessment she has made of where responsibility for the delay to the time taken for production falls; and if she will make a statement;

(4) how many concessionary scheme bus passes have not been issued on the original timetable; and if she will make a statement.

Responsibility for issuing the concessionary travel passes rests with travel concession authorities, as it has done since 2000. When we made the decision last September to require the new concessionary travel passes to be in smartcard form we recognised this was a challenging requirement in the time available. This is why we put in place contingency arrangements, including allowing existing local passes to remain valid in the local area until 30 September, and providing authorities with temporary passes for people who wished to travel outside their local area.

Local authorities were advised to order sufficient temporary passes to ensure that anyone who was eligible for the England-wide concession was able to take advantage of it from 1 April even if they had not received their smartcard pass by then.

In fact, most local authorities and their suppliers were able to produce passes in time for the start of the concession. By 1 April, 95 per cent. of the anticipated passes had been produced. Unfortunately, while they had managed to produce the passes on time, we are aware that some suppliers experienced last minute problems in dispatching those passes to eligible people. Despite this, we estimate that around 4.8 million passes were dispatched by 1 April.