£1 bus fares for elderly continue until Christmas
PENSIONERS will continue to enjoy early morning bus travel for £1 after an initiative in response to council cutbacks was extended.
Bus company First has confirmed the scheme – which was due to end next week – will continue until Christmas.
The firm introduced the fare after Stoke-on-Trent City Council controversially axed its subsidy by £100,000, leaving senior citizens having to pay the full adult fare.
Prior to the cutback, which came into force in April, pensioners had been able to travel on the buses for free before 9.30am.
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First claimed the move led to a 'significant' drop in the number of people using their buses.
It first unveiled the £1 trial in September across all its routes in Stoke-on-Trent. That has now been extended until New Year's Day.
First Potteries general manager Peter Walch said: "We have analysed figures of how many customers are taking advantage of this great initiative and using the bus before 9.30am and are pleased to announce it has been very successful.
"If we can encourage more people to travel and take advantage of the offer, we may consider extending it further.
"As people will be aware, First Potteries made a commercial decision to roll-out this initiative and give customers a lifeline in being able to travel before the 9.30am watershed.
"There was a significant drop in the number of people using the bus service once the subsidy was taken away and we found that people just stopped using the bus altogether."
Since the council decision, members of the North Staffordshire Pensioners' Convention have lobbied the authority to reintroduce free travel.
Campaigners held a protest outside the authority's Stoke-based headquarters in response to the decision.
Their campaign has been further fuelled by the fact neighbouring Staffordshire County Council continues to subsidise free all day travel, which is also available to disabled people.
John Davis, aged 77, of Bentilee, who is chairman of the pensioners' convention, said: "People who live in Newcastle and the Staffordshire Moorlands are still receiving the subsidy, which makes us some kind of island.
"It is important for senior residents and disabled people to be able to travel for free in the morning as a lot do voluntary work or have medical appointments to get to.
"The fact the scheme has been extended shows that there is a demand for it and reinforces our message."