Cornwall's free bus pass holders asked to pay

Free bus pass holders could be asked to voluntarily pay for tickets in a bid to cut costs and protect rural routes in Cornwall.

Legally, Cornwall Council cannot force concessionary passengers to pay.

However the authority, which needs to save £24m next year, has proposed a voluntary scheme urging passengers to "keep their pass in their pocket".

Campaign group Bus Users UK, said the proposal was not the solution.

Derek Potts, who represents Bus Users UK in Cornwall, said: "I am extremely concerned about any public transport cuts in this county.

"The proposal really isn't dealing with the problem, which is that there isn't adequate money for the operators to continue to accept these passes."

In a statement, the First Bus company said: "The concessionary fare scheme is set out in legislation and operators are not permitted to make any charge to such passengers."

Councillor Alex Folkes explained that the council is looking at a number of options to save rural bus routes.

He said: "Legally we can't, and morally we wouldn't want to force everybody to pay for every journey. But we do know some people can afford to contribute.

"I think it's fair to say to people if you can afford to, would you mind making a contribution. That will help to save our buses."

Mr Folkes said that an additional £750,000 would be available for buses after a £1m overspend - which was due to be repaid next year - would now will be repaid over four years, leaving £250,000 to be paid next year.

"We have found another £750,000 for the bus budget in the coming year and we have also pledged to use a further three-quarters of a million pounds given by the government to us for rural transport for local bus services," he said.

"The 'pass in your pocket' scheme is one additional measure we are looking at to encourage those who feel they can afford to pay occasionally for their bus journeys to do so.

"The amount we might raise from any such scheme might only be a small contribution, but every little will help to preserve rural bus routes on which so many people rely."

The council's cabinet will discuss the proposed bus changes on 12 November, before it is considered by full council at the end of the month.

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