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National Concessionary Bus Passes

Volume 504: debated on Thursday 28 January 2010

5. If he will bring forward proposals to enable national concessionary bus passes to be used on community transport services; and if he will make a statement. (313714)

I pay tribute to and thank the more than 5,000 voluntary bodies which provide community transport around the country, making a substantial positive impact on transport priorities. Some sectors of community transport are already eligible for concessionary travel. Local authorities are also able to offer concessions on any form of community transport on a discretionary basis. We have no current plans to extend the £1 billion national concessionary scheme.

I am grateful for that answer and for the tribute that the Minister has rightly paid to the many community groups that run those essential transport services. The problem in constituencies such as mine, where there are not many scheduled bus services, is that the free bus pass is completely useless for many older and disabled constituents. The district council has to run a costly parallel system of travel tokens, which people who qualify for the pass can use on community transport. Will the Minister consider a proposal for extending the free concessionary bus pass, so that we can get rid of a layer of wasteful bureaucracy and have a more efficient, streamlined system that could deliver better services at no more cost to the taxpayer?

I am happy to look at new ideas. Aside from the cost, there are practical problems with the definition of eligibility, including who would be eligible, and with the impact on rural bus demand, given the extra burdens that such a scheme would impose. I am happy to talk to the hon. Gentleman about any proposals that he has, but it is worth adding that Forest of Dean district council did not respond to the recent consultation on the special grant. However, he may have constructive ideas, which I am happy to listen to, about improving the service that his constituents receive.