Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, led a debate in Parliament this morning on the Concessionary Bus Pass, providing free bus travel for older and disabled people and called for the scheme to be extended to young people.
Mr Zeichner called on the Minister to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the National Concessionary Travel Scheme, introduced by the Labour government in 2008. He also asked her to commit to discussing ring-fencing the funding for the scheme with the Treasury, and to meet with him and the Shadow Buses Minister to discuss extending the scheme to under 25-year olds.
He said: “The trigger for calling this debate was the 10-year anniversary of the scheme. I congratulate the National Pensioners Convention, which made a big effort to celebrate it, including by sending birthday cards to Downing Street; I joined members to go and hand those in. I have to say that I was hoping there might be slightly more enthusiasm from the Government for celebrating the anniversary. We did have a discussion at Transport questions, and the Minister, I am delighted to say, had removed the threat of ongoing review, but I was hoping for something slightly more celebratory-a bit more Jürgen Klopp, a bit more dancng up and down, celebrating the success of the bus scheme.”
“Turning to younger people, who now need to benefit, I want to reiterate something about the scheme in general. Claire Walters, the chief executive of Bus Users UK, recently said: “Far more people rely on bus services than trains in this country. They are as vital to many people’s lives as gas, electricity and water”.”
“For many young people, particularly those in rural counties such as mine, getting to college or work is a real challenge…Part of the challenge for young people is the cost of travel. “
“I was absolutely delighted by the announcement a few weeks ago that in future Labour would provide free bus travel in some parts of the country to those under 25. That would reduce the barriers to accessing work and education that so many young people face. The proposal could benefit up to 13 million young people, helping them save up to £1,000 a year. My hon. Friends have suggested that money ring-fenced from vehicle excise duty could be used. In addition, bus franchising, with much greater control for local authorities could well create extra headroom within local funds to help fund such an extension of the scheme.”
Mr Zeichner comments: “It’s time that the government moves in the direction of supporting young people -; there’s a massive squeeze on the young at the moment, in terms of suppressed wages, high rents, and expensive costs as we well know in Cambridge, and this would go some way to level the playing field. I hope the government responds positively, sooner rather than later.”