Anger as pensioners hit by changes to free bus passes

SUFFOLK: Opposition is mounting over controversial proposals to stop people using free bus passes during morning rush hours.

The county council takes over the administration of the concessionary bus pass scheme early next year and last week decided that people will not be able to use them before 9.30am Monday to Friday.

They will still be valid all day at weekends and bank holidays.

However there are fears this change will affect those aged over 60 who rely on buses to get to voluntary work or who have family responsibilities.

Gwen Wall, 64, of Sandown Road in Ipswich, uses the buses most days – often before 9.30am.

She said: “Many people use them to get to voluntary work in the town and if they have to pay the full fare that will make doing this voluntary work that much more expensive.

“And then there are those who have to look after grandchildren. Until they were a bit older I used to have to travel across town at about 7am to get to look after grandchildren so their parents could go to work.

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“It seems that the government wants more of us to volunteer and the council is making it more expensive to do that.

“I am sure there are many like myself who would be willing to pay 20/30/50p per journey in order to keep using the buses early each day.”

County councillor with responsibility for transport Guy McGregor said the decision to reduce the coverage of bus passes had been taken to save money to help protect rural services.

He said: “We may be able to look at it again in the future, but I have to balance the need of the rural buses with the overall service.”

Ipswich Buses managing director Malcolm Robson said he would have no alternative but to charge bus pass holders the full fare when the changes are introduced next year.

Suffolk’s Labour group leader Sandy Martin said the change was just the start of cuts affecting people on the ground. He said: “Much of the talk is about the senior citizens’ bus pass, but don’t forget that disabled people also use bus passes – and they use them to travel to work.”

n Is it right to reduce the availability of bus passes? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstar