I refer to your story "Fresh bus service cuts loom" and Leader comment "Bus services at stake if free travel issues aren't addressed" (January 7).
When will the Scottish Government stop behaving like the proverbial ostrich with its head deep in the sand? This matter has been before us for some time and it is clear the issues arising need to be dealt with urgently.
Where is the logic of someone in well-remunerated employment over 60 years of age being able to travel free at public expense to and from work while others on minimal wage have to pay? The inequity of this should be clear to all.
Where is the sense in persevering with the existing scheme while having to accept a reduction in services and increased costs of travel for many people who are heavily reliant on public transport by bus?
Albeit belatedly, measures should be introduced to restrict the availability of this scheme, the financing of which is spiralling out of control. It would be gratifying if we could afford the generosity built into the principle of universal availability, but we cannot. Many recipients must realise that.
I would suggest the following changes, on the basis that the current arrangements for the disabled and veterans remain unchanged:
l Those who already have the pass should retain it, but pay a minimum charge of perhaps 30p every time they use it.
l In future, it should only become available to those fully retired who qualify for the state pension. They should also pay a minimum charge.
I have serious doubts the SNP Government will do anything other than place the matter in the tray marked: "Too awkward to deal with right now".
Ian W Thomson,
38 Kirkintilloch Road,
Further bus service cuts will leave wide areas of rural Scotland no-go areas for people who depend on public transport. It is time the Scottish Government modified the concessionary bus scheme and the Bus Service Operator Grant to target greater support towards socially necessary bus routes.
Taxpayer funding for long distance free travel on profitable long distance Citylink coaches, many of which duplicate rail services which are also funded by the taxpayer, makes no sense when local rural and evening bus services are being cut.
In England concessionary travel is no longer available on coach services. A sensible initiative from Scottish politicians would be a cross-party agreement to limit concessionary travel to local bus journeys, link the age for the concessionary bus scheme to the state pension age and introduce financial incentives for local bus operators for greater integration with train services. This would reduce the current duplication of services on main routes, while boosting funding and use of local bus routes.
Dr John McCormick,
Scottish Association for Public Transport,
11 Queens Crescent,
The bus pass is available to those aged 60 and over. That age of eligibility was set some years ago, when the state pension age for women was 60. However it is now rising to reach that of men. Eligibility will be 65 in six years, then carry on upwards.
The pass is a blessing to many and is a positive health measure as it encourages older people to keep mobile and get out and about.
It does seem a nonsense to give passes to people who are not pensioners. Surely one way of rationalising the cost of this benefit, without harming pensioners, would be for the age of eligibility to rise in parallel with the women's pension age?
13 Findhorn Place,
I agree emphatically with your editorial suggesting a small, flat-rate fare being imposed upon the concessionary travel scheme.
If I recall correctly, for many years prior to the introduction of universal free bus travel in Scotland, pensioners with a local authority travel card were obliged to make a small contribution towards the cost of their journey, and I see no reason why such a contribution could not be reintroduced, were it to be deemed an alternative to the possible knock-on effect on local services.
What is the point of advocating universal free bus travel if its larger implications produce cuts to services, meaning those in affected communities cannot take advantage of the scheme?
John G McMenemy,
If it is thought necessary to reduce the cost of the concessionary travel scheme, but without discrimination against those who are retired, would it not be simpler to offer the benefit to those who have not only reached the age of 60 but have retired?
Many people are or plan to work beyond their normal retiral age, whether that be 60 or 65 years. This may become a particularly relevant question due to the demographic and the general health of the nation.
This proposal would protect pensioners who have retired and are therefore on a lower income than those who have reached the traditional retiral age but continue to draw an income from their employment.
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