This was a local manifesto commitment and a partial restoration of a badly thought through cut from the short-lived Conservative-led administration. We would like to restore it at all times but we need to make sure this is affordable. Talking to retired people the loss of the 9-9.30 period was the one that was most resented by many and it has a knock on effect on bus users from 9.30 onwards, as anyone who has tried to take a push chair, wheelchair or even a larger shopping trolley on the first few buses after 9.30 can tell you!
The change won’t be immediate, if you are a bus pass holder you’ll get a letter informing you of the change and the start date.
“Elderly people in Reading will be able to travel for free on local buses from 9am on weekdays, if proposals are adopted next week.
The nationally funded concessionary fares scheme means that, at the moment, people over pensionable age in Reading can only make use of free bus travel from 9.30am, Monday to Friday.
Reading Borough Council is now planning to introduce free bus travel for the elderly from 9am onwards on weekdays. The cost of funding the extra half-an-hour’s free travel estimated to be between £29,000 and £46,000 per year – would be paid for with income from bus lane fines in the town.
The move would also bring Reading into line with neighbouring Wokingham and West Berkshire, where concessionary pass holders are currently able to travel from 9am Monday to Friday. This has been the source of some complaints, in particular from those Reading Borough residents who live close to the administrative boundary.
The proposed change to free bus travel from 9am for the elderly follows the re-introduction of free unrestricted bus travel for disabled residents and their carers last year by the administration.
Tony Page, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, said: ‘In April 2011 the then Administration in Reading ended 40 years of entirely free bus travel at all times for senior citizens, disabled residents and their carers. Last autumn we were able to re-instate free travel at all times for 5,500 disabled people and their carers.. This year we can take a further small step towards re-instating free travel for all senior citizens by moving the start time for free travel from 9.30am to 9am. This fulfils our commitment prior to the most recent local elections. Times are very tight financially and this latest measure will be funded by the fines paid for violating bus lanes. Our aspiration as an Administration still remains the restoration of entirely free bus travel at all times for senior citizens, if the money can be found.’
The proposals will go to a meeting of Reading Borough Council’s Cabinet on Monday June 11. If agreed, the Council will write to all senior citizens advising them of the change and start date. For a copy of the Cabinet report go to http://www.reading.gov.uk/meetings/details/3453
This free service is very useful and will be made full use of the people who really wanted such services.