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Bus Services: Concessions

Volume 481: debated on Tuesday 21 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to change the national concessionary bus fares scheme. (226745)

This Government introduced the statutory minimum bus concession in 2001 and subsequently improved the original half-fare minimum to free local travel in 2006. The successful introduction of the England-wide concessionary travel in April this year was a major achievement, but it represented a further significant change for both local authorities and the bus industry. As such, our current focus is very much on ensuring the continued success of the new concession.

We are currently considering possible improvements to the administration of concessionary travel and are likely to consult on some possible changes later in the year.

In July this year it was announced that by 1 April 2011, the statutory bus concession in England will be extended to include service personnel and veterans under the age of 60, who were seriously injured in service and are resident in England. Aside from this there are no further plans at present to extend the statutory minimum to different times, other modes, community transport or additional groups of people.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the estimated cost to local authorities of the national concessionary bus fares scheme is for (a) 2008-09 and (b) 2009-10; and what the estimated central government funding for the scheme is for each of those years. (226746)

Most of the funding for concessionary travel is part of a block within the Revenue Support Grant (RSG), so it is not possible to disaggregate information for concessionary fares. The latest available figures show that local authorities spent, in total, £735.2 million on concessionary travel in 2006-07. We would expect a slightly higher figure for 2007-08 and a more significant increase for 2008-09 with the advent of all-England travel but it is too early to fully establish the impact of the new concession.

The Government are paying a special grant directly to Travel Concession Authorities (TCAs) to meet the extra cost of the England-wide bus concession from 1 April 2008. Unlike RSG funding this is identifiable at £212 million in 2008-09, rising to £217m in 2009-10. The new funding is in addition to existing concessionary fares funding through RSG. The Government remain confident that funding for statutory concessionary fares is sufficient to meet the cost to TCAs.