Travel discounts for youngsters in Suffolk could be restored
PUBLISHED: 16:41 24 June 2011
FRESH hopes have emerged that young people in Suffolk could have their travel discounts restored.
Thousands of teenagers lost out after Suffolk County Council decided to withdraw funding for the eXplore Card, which was abolished in April as part of the authority’s budget cuts.
But now, as part of a £180m package to replace the now redundant Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA,) the government is to offer funding to colleges nationwide to make it easier for youngsters to access their courses.
Four colleges in Suffolk are due to share £2m – and the county is to write to them pointing out that, if their money was pooled, the eXplore Card could be restored.
Transport spokesman Guy McGregor said: “We certainly think it is something they should consider.
“We were very reluctant to cut the eXplore card, but it was costing us £1.7m a year.
“If the colleges came together like this, it would make a major difference and could help their students get to and from their courses, as well as benefiting many other young people across the county.”
However, Graham Newman, councillor with responsibility for children and young people, sounded a note of caution.
He said: “It is a good idea, and we may well write to the colleges.
“But this money is for those with specific financial pressures and it might not be possible to use it on this, even if the colleges agree.”
The issue was raised during a debate on young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) by the county’s scrutiny committee.
Afterwards, Woodbridge county councillor Caroline Page, who began a petition to save the eXplore card, questioned whether pooling the cash was the best move.
Ms Page said she remained “hopeful” of a solution after a “significant number of young people showed their support”, by signing her petition.
“I would suggest looking at a subscription service for the eXplore card,” she said.
“We think it would cost a maximum of £30 a year. What’s wrong with charging families for a year’s pass?
“Another thing is that the eXplore card covered everyone from five to 20.
“Most people under 16 get half price travel anyway, so why don’t we look at a scheme aimed at young people between 16 and 20?”
Should the eXplore Card be brought back? Write to Postbox, The Journal, 147, London Road North NR32 1NB or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org making sure to include your name and address.