Concession travel scheme is flawed

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In his letter Cllr Challen commented on my explanation of the issues affecting bus operators, and asks more questions about the Concessionary Travel Scheme. He, like I believe many others, completely misunderstands the way this complicated and in my view deeply flawed scheme works.

It is technically true that on short journeys this particular local authority pays us more for a concessionary traveller than we would get from a farepaying passenger making the same journey.

However this is offset by a much smaller proportion of the public fare on longer trips as we receive only about half of the average network fare in every case. Other councils have quite different reimbursement arrangements.

We do not “charge back the taxpayer” for concessionary journeys.

The amount paid is set by individual local authorities and we have no influence on this – we have to accept what we are given and at only around half the average adult fare it is easy to see that we do not get properly reimbursed.

The Labour Government introduced the national scheme in 2008 and the Conservative manifesto pledged to keep it as a free travel scheme.

At the start no one had any idea how many people would make use of it.

It turned out to be far more than the Government expected, so successive governments have been trying to reduce the cost ever since, and that can only be done by cutting the payments to bus operators – in our case by £800,000 this year alone as mentioned in my earlier letter.

There have been extra passengers as a result of the scheme but the point often forgotten is that previously many of these passengers would have paid something and in some cases the full adult fare.

So it is not true that any payment for free passholders is extra money for us – most operators are undoubtedly worse off financially as a result of the scheme.

Cllr Challen says he has no objection to EYMS increasing our profit. At present we are struggling to maintain our existing very modest profit and this could well turn into a loss for this year given the scale of the financial issues affecting us.

Mr Fairweather also wrote to complain that our weekly ticket offers poor value in weeks containing a public holiday – especially on the rare occasion such as the week of the Royal Wedding when there were two holidays.

Most people decide not to buy their weekly ticket and pay daily when this happens.

Our 10% discount card can be used to save money on the remaining days – it has no time limit so can be held in reserve for just such occasions and used for any other journeys not covered by the weekly ticket.

Peter Shipp

Chairman and chief

executive

EYMS Group Ltd