TRANSPORT leaders have approved plans that they say have saved Wigan’s Ring and Ride service from closure although fares for some are going up and those aged 60 to 70 will no longer be eligible if not disabled.
The changes follow a review of the service by the Ring and Ride operator Greater Manchester Accessible Transport Limited and Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), who say that the plan means that it will continue to provide accessible transport for those who need it the most.
But not everyone will be happy, especially those who currently qualify by simply being aged between 60 and 70, even though they don’t have a significant disability.
Ring and Ride provides door-to-door accessible transport for people of all ages who find it difficult to use ordinary public transport.
A meeting of the TfGM Committee heard the service review had taken into account an aging population and increased demand to travel; much improved access to the general transport network; and reduced funding (due to national cuts to local authority spending).
To ensure the people who need to use Ring and Ride the most continue to benefit, the eligibility criteria will be changed from Monday April 4.
Eligible users will include holders of a Greater Manchester Concessionary Plus or Disabled Pass, who will have undergone an assessment process to demonstrate a difficulty in using the public transport network.
Also eligible will be people aged over 70 years old who have mobility issues and hold a Greater Manchester Over-60 Concessionary Pass.
The Ring and Ride fares and fare structure will also be revised, with no changes having been made to the single fare since 2011, almost five years ago.
Coun Andrew Fender, Chair of the TfGM Committee, said: “It’s essential we review services like Ring and Ride to ensure they are meeting their purpose and continue to offer a high quality service to the people who need it the most.
“Given financial pressures and rising demand to travel there is a serious risk that, without these changes, Ring and Ride would no longer be able to offer transport to those people who have no other way to get out and about. It’s fair to say that some of the people currently eligible to use the service could now use the general transport network, which has become much more accessible in recent years.
“Anyone under 70 who does have serious difficulties using public transport can apply for the appropriate disability pass in order to use Ring and Ride.
“The changes we’ve agreed today are vital to secure the future of the service and accessible transport for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
There are several increases to charges. A concessionary disabled pass holder’s fare, for instance, will rise from £1 to £1.20 and an accompanying passenger of over-16 sees the fare rise from £2 to £3. But those categorised as a carer passenger actually sees the fare go down from £2 to £1.20.
All Ring and Ride users will be contacted in plenty of time to inform them of the changes, and to offer assistance to anyone needing to apply for a concessionary pass or find alternative transport solutions.
While the service changes for Ring and Ride are due to come into effect on Monday April 4 2016, there will be a three month period to allow Over 60 Concessionary Pass holders who will turn 70 between April 4 and June 30 to continue to travel while they are still 69 years old.