PENSIONERS are being reminded that they will no longer be able to use their concessionary bus passes before 9.30am on weekdays from April 1st.
Unlike many other local authority areas, Reading Borough Council still offers its residents a concessionary bus pass scheme over and above the national scheme. That will come to an end from April 1st, after the Council last year announced it was having to remove its subsidy as a result of budget pressures caused by unprecedented cuts in Government funding and increased demands on services.
The change means pensioners who are used to using their concessionary bus pass from 9am, will from April 1st need to wait until 9.30am to make their journeys. Revised hours of use in Reading will be 9.30am to 11pm, Monday to Friday, which are the hours permitted by the national concessionary fares scheme.
Weekend and Bank Holiday use of the concessionary bus pass remains unchanged, meaning pensioners can still use them at any time. Concessionary bus passes will however no longer be accepted for use on football or rugby buses operated by Reading Buses or Stagecoach.
A public information campaign began this week to ensure people are aware of the changes well in advance of their introduction in April. Reading Buses have begun putting messages on bus screens and notices on the buses to explain the changes.
The Council has made more than £65 million of savings since 2010. Another £42 million needs to be identified by 2020. The removal of the Council’s concessionary fares subsidy is one of the difficult decisions it is having to make to help close the budget gap.
Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“For many years this Council has offered Reading residents a bus concessionary scheme over and above the national scheme, meaning pensioners could take advantage by boarding buses from 9am, instead of 9.30am. The removal of the Council subsidy, reluctantly announced last year, means the Reading scheme will soon replicate those offered other in other local authority areas where no Council subsidy was provided.
“It means concessionary bus passes in Reading will no longer be able to be used before 9.30am on weekdays. It is important regular and occasional bus passengers know that well in advance, so they do not get caught out come April 1st when the change comes into effect.
“I would stress that there are no proposed changes in Reading to the issue and acceptance of Access Passes for disabled persons’ bus travel, which will continue to be valid at any time.
“Government funding for Reading will have been cut by more than £57 million between 2011 and 2020. The reality is subsidies like the one the Council offered for concessionary fares, are no longer possible in the face of the severe, increasing and unprecedented Governments cuts.”
The changes also mean that from April 1st Reading Borough will stop accepting Wokingham concessionary passes between 09.00 and 09.30, Monday to Friday. The arrangement to accept West Berkshire pass holders from 9.00am ended in May last year, when West Berkshire Council similarly reverted to the national scheme as part of its own budget savings.