DISABLED people are angry they are now having to pay to travel on buses to important hospital appointments and day centres in Worcester.
Vulnerable people are now being forced to cough up to travel on buses in the city because controversial changes to the Government’s concessionary bus pass scheme mean the disabled and over-60s can no longer travel for free before 9.30am on weekdays.
The cash-strapped authority said the decision was made with a “heavy heart” but insisted the £50,000 saved was needed to put towards the £3.1 million programme of cutbacks it has to make.
David Stanley, who has learning difficulties, said he now has to pay £10.20 a week for his bus journeys to Cherry Orchard Day Centre, Orchard Street, Worcester. He said he cannot drive or walk that far.
“I think it’s all wrong because they have just done it to save money,” said the 51-year-old part-time litter picker of Barbourne Road, Barb-ourne, Worcester.
“It seems to me like penny pinching in the extreme. I think it’s diabolical.”
Mr Stanley said he was also unhappy about the fact he only found out about the bus pass changes when he was told by a driver that he now had to pay.
He said: “It’s £1.20 for every single journey I take now.
“But what happens if they want to put it up in the future? It’s all additional expense. I think this is going too far.”
A 41-year-old woman, of Warndon, who did not wish to be named, said the bus pass changes mean she is now having to rearrange her weekly appointments at Worcestershire Royal Hospital, where she is receiving treatment to relieve the pain in her hips.
She said she cannot drive or walk to the hospital and added that if she travels on the buses before 9.30am it could cost her anything up to £3.50.
“I think it’s a bit stupid and I don’t think they gave people enough warning about it,” she said.
City council leader Simon Geraghty said previously allowing people to travel for free before 9.30am cost an extra £50,000 on top of the £750,000 needed to provide free off peak travel on buses.
“It is something we regret having to do but we wouldn’t be looking to reinstate it because we have got to continue making savings,” he said.
Councillor Geraghty said when a decision was being made on the future of concessionary bus travel results from the citizens’ survey suggested people were more concerned about saving disabled people’s charity Worcester Wheels.
While Wyre Forest District Council also withdrew its subsidy for peak time bus travel, in Wychavon, Malvern Hills, Redditch and Bromsgrove the district councils have not made any changes.
Worcester News, 20th April 2009