A HUNMANBY councillor has revealed his “dismay” at huge Government transport cuts which he fears will drive pensioners to despair.
Cllr Nick Harvey vented his anger after plans were unveiled to abolish half-price discounts for disabled and passengers over 60 years-old from November.
Cllr Harvey said the move would hit pensioners hard, and said users of National Express services, where the cut-price scheme was most prevalent, would suffer the most.
He said the proposals were short-sighted and came without full consultation, thus causing another blow for services in Hunmanby, which is still reeling from a cutback in local bus services, healthcare provision and doubts over the village library.
He added: “Time after time it is the vulnerable that are bearing the brunt of the economic problems that the country faces.
“National Express bus routes are a lifeline and help vulnerable people keep in touch with family and friends.
“I worked hard to get them to put an extra coach stop in at Primrose Valley two years ago so this area with its high numbers of elderly and disabled residents have a more local stop.
“The stop serves both the holiday park and is a convenient boarding point for Hunmanby and villages of Reighton, Speeton, Royal Oak, Hunmanby Gap and Primrose Valley.”
Cllr Harvey said the company’s user numbers revealed more than 2.8 million concessionary journeys were made on National Express coaches, which only emphasised the popularity of the service.
However, he revealed he had big fears over the independence of elderly residents if the half-price scheme was axed.
He added: “I am concerned over the impact on routes where high numbers of users travel with the discount because this will reduce the economic viability of non-core routes where the bulk of users are more vulnerable people.
“I fear the knock-on effect of axing the concessionary fare scheme will mean some routes are abandoned and I believe that older and disabled people in rural areas are likely to be worst affected.”
Cllr Harvey’s worries were echoed by Sophie Allain, a campaigner for the Campaign for Better Transport.
She said: “This has been a hasty and poorly assessed decision which is bad news for older and disabled bus passengers but also threatens to tip a number of coach routes into decline and closure especially in rural and disadvantaged areas.
“When difficult decisions have to be made it is vital that the Government assesses the impacts fully, consults the public and communicates with operators.
“Unless the Government pauses to do these things it will be vulnerable coach passengers who lose out.”
Neil Coyle, director of policy at the Disability Alliance added: “A third of disabled people already live in poverty and discounted travel - especially long distance - has been a significant help to see family or to be able to take a short break.
“Many disabled people will be unable to travel at full cost on coaches and train fares can seem out of reach, especially with half working age disabled adults out of work.”
National Express has launched a campaign for passengers to have their say, which can be accessed by logging on to www.nationalexpress.com