The English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS) was introduced by the government in 2008 to provide free off-peak bus travel to senior citizens and eligible disabled people. The scheme supports bus travel by encouraging the use of underutilised off peak capacity. It is highly valued by many users and is a lifeline for those disabled users who through economic circumstances or medical reasons do not have their own transport and have to rely on public transport. It is a statutory obligation for County Councils to provide the scheme though government financial support for the scheme has been gradually reduced, as is the pattern for government support of local authority services.
Some councils, including Surrey, gave additional non-statutory benefits to disabled users and it is these which are under threat of withdrawal under this consultation.
The society’s view is that: -
- We support a potential saving in administrative costs of the scheme of around £100,000 per annum, mainly through not sending reminder letters to users that their passes are due to expire.
- We strongly object to the proposed withdrawal the approximately 2,500 companion passes across Surrey, which enable the most disadvantaged disabled users who are not capable of independent travel to take with them a carer or friend for support. This represents only around 30% of all disabled passes.
- We are concerned about the proposal that disabled pass holders travelling before 9.30 am and after 11pm on weekdays would need to pay. This would save the Council around £300,000 per annum. If this has to happen, we would urge Surrey to negotiate with the bus companies to provide reduced fares for disabled bus pass holders at this time. They would therefore recover some of the revenue lost through the bus pass scheme. If this works this benefit could later be extended to senior citizens.
The consultation closes on 4th January 2019.