Free off-peak bus travel for the elderly and disabled in England has moved a step forward.
The Concessionary Bus Travel Bill has already cleared its stages in the Lords and has now been given a second reading by MPs.
Pensioners already enjoy bus travel concessions in their own council areas.
The Bill will extend this, giving people aged 60 and over, as well as the disabled, free off-peak travel anywhere in England from April next year.
Cross border arrangements
In the Commons Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander came under cross party pressure to enable ‘cross-border arrangements’ on services between England and Wales or Scotland as he opened the Bill’s second reading debate.
Mr Alexander said it contained ‘enabling powers’ to facilitate this – if agreement was reached between Westminster and the Welsh Assembly or the Scottish Executive.
But he said those discussions were ‘not for today’ and would take place ‘in due course’.
Chancellor Gordon Brown committed up to £250 million a year to pay for the change in last year’s Budget.
Mr Alexander said: ‘It will mean for the first time that around 11 million older and disabled people will be able to use off-peak local buses, free of charge, anywhere in England.’
The concession will apply from 9.30am to 11pm on weekdays, all day on Bank holidays and at weekends – allowing ‘travel, for example, from Cornwall to Cambridgeshire or from Durham to Dorset.’
Mr Alexander said buses were ‘at the heart’ of Britain’s transport system and a ‘lifeline’ to many communities.
‘We want older and disabled people to be able to look beyond their local areas and have free access to local bus services anywhere in England.’
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