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A fare wind

Allister Craddock
Politics Show East Midlands

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Free bus fares are good news for the over 60s, but the East Midlands Politics Show can reveal that it is a big headache for our local authorities.

Lady with megaphone

We have discovered that our councils stand to lose around 7m on the scheme. One local authority treasurer has told us: "It is all getting very scary."

The government has given each of them a grant to cover the cost of concessionary fares in the financial year up to April 2009.

But in some cases, it falls well short of what councils say will be the true cost.

Six months into this financial year, Nottingham Council alone faces a deficit of 3.5m.

Bus
Free buses, ,but at what real cost?

Bolsover District Council stands to lose 450,000, and Derby 235,000.

Fare costs dispute

So why is there such a gulf between the government's estimate of the cost to councils and the bills that are now winging their way from bus companies?

Just one of the questions we will be putting to the Transport Minister, Paul Clark.

And it is not as if the bus companies are happy with the scheme either.

They say some operators are out of pocket too.

Trent Barton, for instance, is appealing against the amount it gets from South Derbyshire District Council.

Fares re-think?

Passengers on a bus
Free bus rides are a great boon for pensioners

For their part, our local authorities complain the system for working out payments needs to be more transparent.

One council told us they do not have a proper means of monitoring how companies calculate the cost involved.

So is it time for a major rethink on concessionary fares? Should the government plug any shortfall? Or should it be down to councils to make up the difference?

To put it in perspective - Chesterfield reckons its fares deficit is the equivalent of an extra 7.80 on council tax bills.

Also on the programme... Peer Pressure

House of Lords
Should there be more Peers from the region?

It is not only our councils who are in deficit. Some argue that our region is suffering from a democratic deficit when it comes to the House of Lords.

A report says we have fewer peers per head of population than any other region in the country.

Why? And what difference does it really make?

Also on the Politics Show...Reading between the lines

Is there hope for campaigners who want to reopen railway lines in the East Midlands?

Leicestershire County Council has commissioned a study into reopening passenger services on the Leicester - Swadlincote - Burton line.

At the moment, only freight traffic uses the tracks, but the government has indicated that the National Forest line has potential as a commuter service.

Service restored?

Meanwhile, Network Rail accepts that reopening the Matlock to Buxton railway could ease congestion on other routes.

The Derbyshire railway used to be a mainline route connecting Leicester and Derby with Manchester and the North West of England.

Railway junctions
Old lines to be re-opened?

But since the 1960s it's only been possible to get as far as Matlock on the southern edge of the Peak District.

Not everyone is in favour of trains running through the National Park again.

And Derbyshire County Council maintains that reopening the line would cost far too much - at least 100m.

We would like to know what you think. Could railways be a 21st Century eco-solution? Or should the old lines be left to nature?

Join Marie Ashby for the Politics Show in the East Midlands this Sunday at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.

Ring us with your views on 0500 900 900 or email on the form below.


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SEE ALSO
Shortfalls blamed on bus scheme
26 Sep 08 |  Sussex
East Midlands
15 Jul 05 |  Politics Show


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