Page last updated at 12:35 GMT, Monday, 12 May 2008 13:35 UK

Free OAP rail scheme is extended

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An extension to free rail travel for pensioners has been announced by the Welsh Assembly Government.

It is aimed at increasing the availability of free travel on trains to more bus pass holders.

The scheme will now include the Cambrian Coast line and the Welsh section of the Wrexham to Bidston line.

However, stopping concessions on the Heart of Wales line over the summer because trains were often too full has been called "outrageous".

The extension of the pilot scheme into a second year was launched on the Cambrian coast railway, from Porthmadog to Machynlleth, by transport minister Ieuan Wyn Jones.

He said: "I have concluded that there have been a wide range of benefits from the pilot scheme, which has extended the availability of free travel on trains to bus pass holders.

"In addition there have been benefits to the local economy and social accessibility, and it has encouraged a reduction in the use of private cars."

OAP SCHEME DETAILS:
Cambrian Coast - free travel between Machynlleth and Pwllheli between October to April, but not in the summer
Welsh section of the Borderlands line - free travel from 18 May from Hawarden Bridge to Wrexham (except early train)
Conwy Valley line - free travel from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Llandudno on Arriva Trains Wales
Heart of Wales line - free travel October to April, but not in the summer

But Mr Jones also announced summer restrictions on the Heart of Wales line because the rail system struggled to cope last year with trains being too full on some occasions.

Despite additional carriages, some trains were reported as too full to board.

The assembly government said there was a trend of free long-distance tourism travel, in particular to Shrewsbury, whereas the original intention was to help local journeys.

The concession scheme for this route will now run from October and end in April.

'Couldn't cope'

Liberal Democrat transport spokeswoman Kirsty Williams AM called it "absolutely outrageous" and said it would hit local travellers.

"The deputy first minister is yet again penalising those in rural areas," she said.

"In other areas concessionary passes will remain valid throughout the summer but OAPs in the rural Heart of Wales areas are missing out due to the very success and popularity of the scheme."

Ms Williams said the assembly government should invest in additional rolling stock as a "sound investment for the benefit of OAPs in rural areas".

Trefor Roberts, of the north Wales councils' transport consortium Taith said however that the restrictions were understandable.

"We realise that the system couldn't cope last year," he said.

"I'm absolutely delighted with what has been announced today," he added.




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