Free coach travel OAPless

Poor old OAPs. They're getting hit right where hit hurts by government spending cuts, losing the right to travel free on coaches – how long before the cuts hit their right to free off peak bus travel?

The Government move will save them £20 million a year in scrapping the Coach Concessionary Travel Scheme, paying for half-price long distance coach travel.

Maria Eagle, Labour’s transport spokesperson attacked the government for making the move as being contradictory to their pre-election promises to look after the elderly and treat OAPs fairly.

'The Tory-led Government has made a great play of keeping concessionary bus passes for pensioners,' she said.

'Yet they are ending concessionary travel on coaches, meaning that thousands of people who use them as their only means of going on holiday or seeing relatives will have this option taken away from them.

'Ministers don’t seem to get that coaches serve as a vital link for pensioners and disabled people who are likely to be isolated and alone without their concessionary travel.

'For the pensioner who uses a coach for their once-a-year holiday trip, or the disabled person who has no other means of getting around, losing concessionary coach travel could greatly reduce their quality of life.'

Not surprisingly, the Department of Transport told a different story. A spokesperson said: 'We have made clear that our first priority must be to reduce the budget deficit. Whilst the coach concession has provided a valuable service to older and eligible disabled people over the past seven years, it cannot be funded indefinitely.

'The industry may wish to continue to offer this on a commercial basis but the Government has decided that this funding should end, to allow funding to be used for higher priority programmes, such as the statutory national concession which offers free travel on local bus services throughout England.

'The local bus concession is intended to allow people to access the local services they need. For many older and disabled people a free local bus service can be a lifeline, providing access to employment, healthcare and other essential services. Most of these services can be accessed by local bus services, rather than needing a long distant coach journey.'

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