07/10/2011

More than 1,400 people join Fair Fares protest over concessionary bus scheme funding so far!

More than 1,400 people have already added their voices to the Norfolk County Council Fairs Fare petition calling on the Government to fairly fund the concessionary bus pass scheme in the county.

Councillors from all parties at County Hall are uniting behind the Fair Fares campaign after hearing how a £4.5 million shortfall in funding for the scheme - which allows pass holders to travel free on buses - is putting extreme pressure on maintaining rural bus services.

Under the Government's scheme, eligible older and disabled people are entitled to free off-peak travel, with about 180,000 passholders in Norfolk.

But the costs of providing the minimum scheme far outstrip resources allocated by the Government, and in light of the shortfall, Norfolk County Council leaders agreed to mount an Autumn campaign calling for 'Fair Fares' for Norfolk.

As well as a Fair Fares petition, available online at www.norfolk.gov.uk and on many Norfolk buses, councillors will be taking to the streets in the coming weeks to gather names from the public.

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis will be at Great Yarmouth bus station this Friday (7 October) between 5pm and 6pm collecting signatures with Graham Plant, cabinet member for Planning and Transportation and other councillors.

There will be further opportunities to sign the petition in the coming weeks as the County Council consults on plans to save £500,000 in rural transport services.

Consultation roadshows have been organised to give people the chance to find out more and register their views as follows:

Roadshows will be held from 11am to 2pm as follows with buses on hand on each occasion to provide a suitable backdrop:

Thursday 6 October - Great Yarmouth Market Place

Wednesday 12 October - The Forum, Norwich

Tuesday 18 October - Tuesday Market Place, King's Lynn

Wednesday 19 October - South Norfolk House, Swan Lane, Long Stratton

About 200 people signed the petition today (Tuesday) when they attended a consultation event at Cromer bus station.

The Norfolk Association of Local Councils (NALC) is also backing the campaign and will be collecting signatures at forthcoming events.

In the meantime, County Council Leader Derrick Murphy has written to English councils suffering under the current scheme asking them to support the campaign.

Mr Murphy said: "With just over a week of the campaign gone, we are off to a very strong start, but we need to keep the petition forms coming in from across Norfolk and beyond so that we are able to send as strong a message as possible to Government about the unfairness of the system.

"You have seen last week how our staff have worked to find savings of £500,000 in the public transport budget. But we are under extreme pressure to find further savings and a £4.5m shortfall in funding for the concessionary bus scheme is something we simply can't afford.

"This is a crucial issue for Norfolk and I hope as many people as possible will get involved. With rural bus services under threat, at its most extreme, the reality is we could end up with people having a bus pass but no service to travel on."

*Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis who has secured a Westminster Hall debate on rural buses on Tuesday October 11 to help highlight the county's plight.