End to senior citizen bus fares

SENIOR citizens living in Suffolk are set to be able to travel free on any buses in Suffolk from next April.More than 25,000 people in Ipswich will be eligible for the free transport which was heralded by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown in his budget in March.

SENIOR citizens living in Suffolk are set to be able to travel free on any buses in Suffolk from next April.

More than 25,000 people in Ipswich will be eligible for the free transport which was heralded by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown in his budget in March.

Most of the £2 million cost of introducing the free bus passes in the town will be met by central government - although a proportion of the cost will fall on council taxpayers.

The borough's administration has decided how to implement the change - but other districts across the county are still considering their options.

Although the Chancellor said the free travel would be for off-peak journeys, senior citizens in Ipswich will be able to use their passes at any time in Suffolk.

Anyone over 60 who lives in Ipswich will be able to get a pass - as will many people with disabilities.

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Other districts in the county are linked in with the Suffolk Saver scheme which will be used to introduce the free fares.

No final decision has yet been taken - but it is understood that the scheme is also likely to introduce free travel at any time.

The change will mean senior citizens in Ipswich will no longer have to pay a flat rate fare of 40p for journeys within the borough or half-price on other services in the county.

That means that a pensioner who makes a return trip from an Ipswich estate to the town centre by bus twice a week will save £80 a year.

The leaders of the joint Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration agreed the move at a meeting this week, and it will be implemented by the council's executive committee later in the year.

Council leader Liz Harsant welcomed the move - and as a pensioner will be able to take advantage of the new pass.

She said: “We are determined to make this a fairer society for everyone and we believe our travel plans help us to do this.

“We welcomed the Chancellor's initiative for off-peak consessionary travel but we want to go further.

“We don't want to limit travel times for older passengers or restrict them to travelling in Ipswich; it's much easier and fairer to say: 'Travel free on any bus in Suffolk whenever you like.'”

Council transport spokeswoman Inga Lockington said that the passes would be free to all eligible residents.

The move was welcomed by Ipswich Buses managing director Malcolm Robson, who was pleased that there was no time restriction.

He said: “In effect you don't get many senior citizens travelling at rush hours - they wait until there is more space on the buses - but it means they can use them if they need to, for instance if they have to catch a train.

“We welcome this news and look forward to the passes coming in next April.”

All district and borough councils across the country have to introduce free local bus transport for pensioners from next April - but Ipswich is the first in Suffolk to announce its plans.

The chancellor's budget statement requires that off-peak travel is free for pensioners - but Ipswich is one of the first councils in the country to go further than this and make all bus travel within the county free for pensioners.

Stephen Burroughes, transport spokesman for Suffolk Coastal, said his council had not yet decided how the scheme would be implemented, but would remain part of the Suffolk Saver scheme.

“This is something we will look at over the next few months,” he said.

And a spokeswoman for Babergh council said they expected the scheme to provide free travel within the county at all times from April 1.

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