Move to ease restrictions on bus passes in Suffolk

A NEW attempt to ease restrictions on the use of concessionary bus passes in the county is to be made next week.

A motion by the opposition Liberal Democrat group calls on the county to allow those holding an age-related bus pass, aged 60 and over, to use buses from 9am, as opposed to having to wait until 9.30am.

And those with disabled people's bus passes would have no restriction on when they could be used.

LibDem transport spokeswoman Caroline Page said the changes would make it much easier for elderly people who need to get to doctors' or hospital appointments.

'Appointments tend to start at 8.30am so if you can't even get on a bus until 9.30am that is difficult – and at the hospital the last appointments in the morning are often at 11.30am so that adds to the pressure,' she said.

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People with disability often relied on buses to get to work – or to voluntary work – but were unable to afford the cost of their fares because they were on low pay, she added.

'Many people with disabilities are unable to earn as much as others, but find their work very rewarding and very important for them – if they have to give this up because of the cost that would be very worrying.'

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County transport spokesman Guy McGregor said the government only paid for the concessions from 9.30am and if there was to be an extension other services could suffer.

There were exceptions for some rural services where there was a long gap between services – for instance if there were no buses from a community between 9am and noon those with age-related passes could catch the earlier bus.

Any extension of the bus concessionary fare scheme would have to come out of the budget the council had allocated to support rural services.

Mr McGregor feared this could lead to pressure on some rural services: 'I am anxious to maintain our transport network.

'It came under pressure earlier this year and by a great deal of hard work we managed to retain many of the links.

'I would not like to take more money away from those services.'

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