OAP bus fare hike

PENSIONERS in Wigan are to lose their early morning concessions after transport bosses voted to increase bus fares.

Leaders of the Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority (GMITA) voted to increase concessionary fares, which also affects children and some disabled people, in order to make savings.

They say the move will save school buses and other subsidised services from the axe and will come into force in April.

Pensioners and some disabled passengers currently get the 80p fare before 9.30am on weekdays.

Disabled passengers will now pay half fare for those journeys and pensioners full fare.

It also means school-age passengers, who now pay 80p for any journey, will have to pay half of the full fare.

The national concessionary scheme that provides over-60s with free bus travel from 9.30am until 11pm on weekdays and all day at weekends is unaffected.

And Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE) Concession Plus pass holders will still be able to travel free on local services.

But pensioners will have to pay full fare on trams and trains as well as on buses before 9.30am on weekdays.

GMPTE says it will continue to provide over 60s with free train and tram travel after 9.30am on weekdays.

The changes will cut GMITA’s costs by £23.4m over the next three years.

A Wigan representative of GMITA and a Conservative spokesman, said: “Due to the amount of money that had to be saved, directed by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) leaders, GMITA had to come up with a proposal to make sure the budget balanced.

“It is regrettable that these concessions had to be increased.These proposals have been endorsed by the council leaders in Greater Manchester, which includes the Wigan leader,

“The only other alternative was to cut subsidised services on other bus routes, which would mean some routes would no longer be available.

“We felt the least worst option was to make sure these bus routes were still funded.”

Labour councillors abstained from the vote.

Pensioners’ charities are concerned about how elderly people can afford to use public transport.

John McArdle, of Wigan Age Concern, said: “It is yet another obstacle, especially for older people, when we know these people experience a higher level of inflation.

“Their incomes are diminishing and essential services are cut and at the same time their opportunity to travel on public transport will be reduced.

“This undermines their ability to get around, including early hospital appointments, especially if they have to make two bus journeys.”