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Paper  7 -  30 November 2001Meeting

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

30 November 2001

TRAVEL CONCESSIONS FOR THE BLIND AND PARTIALLY SIGHTED

Report by the County Surveyor
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RECOMMENDATION

It is recommended that:

(1) Members of the Association consider whether they wish to make available completely free concessionary bus travel to eligible people including the blind and partially sighted; and,

(2) Further work be carried out by the Chief Executive’s Group in consultation with the County Surveyor on this issue and on related matters such as universal bus passes and standardisation for men and women.
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SUMMARY

The Transport Act 2000 requires the relevant local authorities to provide half-price local bus travel to eligible people. The Act does allow these authorities to grant completely free travel to these people at their discretion.

1. Introduction

1.1Over the past few months correspondence has been received from one of the South’s MP’s regarding travel concessions for blind and partially sighted persons.

1.2The issue was brought to a head by the decision of Wilts and Dorset Bus Company to withdraw the free travel service it used to provide to the visually impaired.

1.3This free service was provided by the Bus Company and was not under-pinned by any local authority funding; it was a commercial decision by the Company to offer the free service in the first instance.

2. The Current Position regarding travel concessions

2.1 Travel concessions are funded by District and Unitary Councils and not by County Councils. The concessions currently available are:-

- Hampshire "Farepass" scheme – administered on behalf of Hampshire’s councils by Hampshire County Council.

- Travel tokens

2.2 As far as the "Farepass" scheme is concerned it provided half-price travel to a number of categories of people:-

- Those of pensionable age

- The disabled

- Those not permitted to drive for medical reasons

Whether or not a charge was made for the "pass" was at the discretion of the District Council.

2.3 From its inception "Farepass" has included an option to allow participating authorities to offer completely free travel to any person with a "cash-handling" problem. This would include blind people and partially sighted people, those with communication problems, the mentally handicapped etc. This option has been taken up to a limited degree (details to be included).

2.4 Token schemes exist (normally via a national company) whereby appropriate people can buy tokens (at a discount) which can be used to purchase public transport.

3. Recent legislation regarding concessionary travel

3.1 The Transport Act 2000 gave older and many disabled people an entitlement to travel at half-fare on local bus services (the Act became law on 1 June 2001).

3.2 People of pensionable age or those having one or more of the disabilities set down in the Act (including the blind or partially sighted) can apply to their District Council who must issue them with a half-price bus pass free of charge.

3.3 The loss of income from any charge previously made for a pass will be made good by the Government via adjustments to the Revenue Support Grant.

4 Impact of the new legislation on the blind and partially sighted.

4.1 The impact on the blind and partially sighted is no different than on other people ie there is no longer a charge for the pass.

4.2 However, for those that used to receive free travel from a particular bus company the impact is that they will now only receive a 50% discount if the company has decided to withdraw the "free " service.

5. Conclusion

5.1 The new Act does allow councils to grant completely free travel to the disabled but it is solely at the discretion of the District/Unitary Council whether they would wish to give this further dispensation to the blind or partially sighted.

5.2 The issue is to be discussed at the AGM of the "Farepass" scheme at which all Hampshire Districts will be represented (to be fixed for a date in November). Advice from the AGM will be reported orally to the Association. Ultimately any extra concessions granted to a particular category of person is a decision for individual district councils. It is not necessary - though it may be preferable - for all district councils to make the same decision.

5.3 There was no objection in principle when this report was considered by the Chief Executive’s Group. Some Member Authorities, however, suggested that the scheme should be looked at in a broader perspective to include further work on universal bus passes (which might include other modes of travel) and standardisation of service to both men and women.

JOHN EKINS
County Surveyor

Date: 16 November 2001
Annex: 0
Contact: Dave Wootton - tel no.01962 846931 

Last update: 21/11/2001
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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