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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 October 2005, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Concerns over free senior travel
Bus stop
The South West demographics could impact on other services
Services provided by South West councils could be affected by a free bus travel scheme for the over-60s.

It is estimated the cost of the government initiative, which comes into force in April, could be more than 7m.

Much of the cash will come from central government, but local authorities may have to find some extra money.

Stagecoach, the county's largest bus operator, has said the South West will be in a worse position than other areas because it has an older population.

What we have in Devon and Cornwall is a very large number of pensioners
Chris Hilditch, Confederation of Passenger Transport

Managing director Chris Hilditch, who is also a spokesman for the Confederation of Passenger Transport, said: "We're pretty well agreed it isn't going to cover us here.

"It might be okay in Staffordshire or Norfolk, but we're pretty certain some authorities here are going to get short-changed.

"The way the money is distributed is by formula and what we have in Devon and Cornwall is a very large number of pensioners.

"Some city areas like Plymouth, Exeter and Truro are fairly average. But in east Devon, for example, it's very different with many, many more elderly people."

Mr Hilditch believes applying a national formula could mean some smaller councils will not get the amount they need. He claims this could have an impact on other services they provide.

Government consultation

"The travel concession is mandatory", he said. "In Torbay, for instance, we're talking about 40% of people who will become valid - 33% are the over-60s and 7% are registered disabled.

"At a conference in July and the Department for Transport said there would be winners and losers and guess what - the South West looks set to be one of the big losers."

A spokesman for the Department for Transport told BBC News that a consultation into the funding had been carried out by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and 350m would be made available to cover the cost for local authorities.

He said no decision had yet been made on how the funding would be allocated, but that representation had been made for areas with a high density of elderly people.

Views wanted on free bus scheme
24 Oct 05 |  Scotland
Free bus travel under discussion
25 Sep 05 |  Lincolnshire
Free travel plan 'a shambles'
18 Sep 02 |  Scotland

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