Pensioners' to pay for 'free' travel

Pensioners are being invited to subsidise unpopular bus routes by making voluntary payments to save them from being axed.

Companies are bearing the brunt of underfunded councils and are cutting services that don't make money. As a result they are inviting customers to make a contribution towards keeping the ailing routes alive.

The Department of Transport has accused the companies of coercion by threatening to get rid of routes if contributions are not made.

'We received a number of letters from people who would be inconvenienced and a local councillor got involved,' said Tony Randerson, East Yorkshire Motor Services planning manager.

'As a result we suggested concessionary bus holders left their passes in their pocket and paid the appropriate fare of around £1.40. As a result we were prepared to reinstate the service.

But in a circular to councils the Department of Transport criticised the initialtive, saying 'We understand that on some routes passengers are being told that the route is under threat unless money is raised through voluntary contributions. Councils have been told that the practice is illegal and voiced doubts whether these payments were "truly voluntary".

But Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, was not surprised by the move. 'In light of the cuts being made by the Government, it is inevitable that operators and councils will resort to desperate measures, including trying to charge people for services that should be free.

'This is only a sticking plaster which in most cases will affect those who are most vulnerable,' he added.

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