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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 February 2006, 14:57 GMT
Concessionary bus scheme widened
Actress Una McLean, Beechgrove Garden's Jim McColl and Transport Minister Tavish Scott at the launch
Una McLean and Jim McColl joined the transport minister at the launch
More than one million older and disabled people will soon be able to travel free by bus across Scotland.

A national concessionary scheme was launched on Tuesday in Edinburgh by Transport Minister Tavish Scott.

The Scottish Executive said 85% of over-60s would benefit from the scheme, which is due to begin on 1 April.

Campaigners for both groups set to benefit have welcomed the initiative, but said they had concerns that some people could miss out.

Free bus travel for older and disabled passengers is currently usually in their home area and during off-peak times.

Independent travel

But under the new scheme, all local and long distance bus journeys Scotland-wide will be free for eligible passengers all day, including the rush hour.

National entitlement cards will also be free.

Age Concern Scotland has welcomed the scheme, but said that many elderly people will still be paying for their transport because they are not near a bus route.

Capability Scotland said it hoped those eligible would include people with mental health and learning problems which impact on independent travel.

Otherwise, it said, an opportunity to empower and enable disabled people would be lost.

It's fantastic that after having worked hard all their lives, older people are being rewarded by being able to travel for free
Una McLean
Actress

Mr Scott was joined by Jim McColl of the BBC programme Beechgrove Garden and Scottish stage veteran Una McLean at Edinburgh Castle for the launch of the scheme.

They both said it was important to encourage older and disabled people to apply for their new concessionary bus pass.

Mr McColl said he was pleased to see free travel extended.

He added: "Free travel is obviously the main benefit of this scheme but the bonus for people like me, who have been used to driving, is in being able to see our beautiful country, enjoying the journey - stress free."

Ms McLean, whose voice will feature on radio adverts for the new scheme, added: "It's fantastic that after having worked hard all their lives, older people are being rewarded by being able to travel for free to places they may never have been to before.

"For long distance journeys, such as visiting my friend in Inverness, I can look forward to hopping onto a bus and taking in the scenery."

'Well-received'

Currently, councils have responsibility for running concessionary travel schemes.

The Scotland-wide concessionary travel scheme will be operated by Transport Scotland, the new executive agency which is directly accountable to Scottish ministers.

It was welcomed by Mark Ballard MSP, the Greens' spokesman on transport.

He said: "The scheme for free local bus travel was well-received especially among households that are less affluent and do not own a car.

"This proves the potential of increasing access to public transport for ensuring that everyone can travel."

Greens called for similar benefits to be extended to other groups and for access to efficient public transport to be prioritised over road building.




SEE ALSO:
Views wanted on free bus scheme
24 Oct 05 |  Scotland
New ticket to ride move for OAPs
23 Dec 04 |  Scotland


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