Councils and Arriva North East agree to extend enhanced travel scheme
AN enhanced concessionary bus travel deal will continue in the Tees Valley after the area’s four local councils and local bus operators reached agreement on improvements to the Government's national scheme.
In most parts of the country, holders of the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme passes can travel free after 9.30am on Mondays to Fridays and all day at weekends. An agreement between Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton Councils and local bus operators means concessionary passholders can still travel at any time and not just between 9.30am and 11.00pm on weekdays.
From April 1, passholders wishing to travel in the area before 9.30 am on weekdays will be charged a flat fare of 30 pence per journey, with travel free at other times. The local agreement only applies in the area covered by the four councils and the national restriction will apply when boarding buses elsewhere.
Under the deal, the four councils will together pay local bus operators more than £12 million for free travel for disabled people and those of retirement age in 2011/12, subject to approval by each council’s Cabinet.
A spokesperson for the four councils said: "This renewal of our local agreement shows the co-operation between the four councils and bus operators for the common good.
"Unlike other areas which only operate the national scheme, our local agreement still allows travel at any time, although passholders who begin their journeys before 9.30am on weekdays will pay a 30 pence flat fare from April 1. Those living in most other areas must either pay the full fare or a fee of up to 50 or 60 pence before 9.30am.
“Reduced government grants mean finances are tough for all councils, so we are pleased to have been able to retain early morning travel and keep the cost as low as possible. 30 pence is the lowest fare we could achieve with the funding available to us and we believe people will accept it as a fair charge.
“Whilst some other areas have experienced major difficulties over concessionary travel, we have agreed significant enhancements over the national scheme. This is despite the increasing number of journeys by passholders and industry costs – especially fuel – rising well above the inflation rate.”
The early morning 30 pence fares will go towards the increased cost of paying the bus companies for concessionary travel.