Norfolk 24-hour bus passes reinstated for blind people

Chris Maule-Oatway says travelling early makes life easier for blind people

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Council leaders in Norfolk have decided to reinstate 24-hour concessionary bus passes for blind and partially-sighted people.

The county council originally axed the all-day concession last year, blaming a £4.5m shortfall in government funding.

It meant eligible people could only travel after 09:30.

Reinstating the 24-hour scheme is expected to cost the council an extra £51,000 on top of its £11m budget for concessionary transport.

A final approval of the 24-hour scheme will be agreed when the full council agrees its budget on 13 February.

Any changes would come into effect on 1 April.

Derrick Murphy, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: "It is clear to us that blind and visually impaired concessionary travel pass holders have been especially disadvantaged by the loss of these discretionary enhancements and experience more disadvantages than other groups because of inequalities in benefit provision and social care eligibility.

"We wanted to give all disabled people the opportunity to travel 24/7.

'Dignity and independence'

"I've taken a lot of advice on this matter and we've found enough money to fund passes for the blind and visually impaired people and companion passes to those who help the disabled in their bus travel."

Campaigners had said removing the chance to get free travel before 09:30 had had a major impact on people's independence and their ability to get to work.

Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind director John Child said: "Allowing registered blind people to travel without cost before 9.30am will make a massive difference to those who are working, those who need to get to college or courses and for those who have early hospital appointments.

"As a charity representing 20,000 blind and visually-impaired people in Norfolk, we are delighted at this decision which will restore dignity and independence to those who rely on bus transport in their everyday lives."

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