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Rail Travel concessions for elderly and disabled pulled to cut costs

 

Rail travel concessions for elderly and disabled pulled to cut costs

     
 

HALF-price travel concessions for elderly and disabled rail users in parts of Wales have been ended in the latest phase of swingeing local authority cost-cutting.

Carmarthenshire council has “reluctantly” agreed with Arriva Trains Wales to axe its concessions which benefited people aged over 60 and others with certain disabilities.

The discount was valid with Arriva Trains Wales for journeys between Swansea and Pembroke and on the Heart of Wales line.

But the concession was pulled in a move which could save the authority £60,000 a year.

But campaigner and rail volunteer Hywel Jones said the move would have a devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable people in the community.

The Carmarthenshire pass has given people aged over 60 or with certain disabilities the right to half-price standard single or day return fares on rail journeys operating within the county.

It has also been valid on local train services to and from Swansea, Pembrokeshire and Llandrindod Wells, provided the journey began or ended in Carmarthenshire.

“It is shocking and very disappointing that this decision has been taken,” said Mr Jones.

“We should be taking care of our elderly and those on low incomes. I appreciate these are austere times but this move is hitting the most needy.”

Mr Jones, 67, a rail user and a volunteer at Llanwrda station in the Tywi valley, said many users depended on such subsidised transport.

“A lot of elderly people depend on the rail service and a lot of people on low income can’t afford a car, or maybe they’re not allowed to drive because of illnesses or some disability,” he said.

One such rail user is Denzil Barr, a cancer patient from Llandeilo who had made 32 trips to Singleton Hospital, Swansea, in seven weeks for treatment.

“Like many patients undergoing treatment you cannot drive, so the rail service became a necessity for me during my treatment,” said 75-year-old Mr Barr.

“If I hadn’t had the concession, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to pay for my wife and I to go for each treatment and I would have struggled to get there on a much longer bus journey.”

Mr Barr said he and other patients unable to drive or afford the train would have to use the hospital transport, paid for by the taxpayer.

“I think this cost-cutting could be a false economy, particularly in terms of hospital users. If patients can’t access affordable travel they will have to access other services – like the hospital car and that would have meant several trips back and fore for the driver, costing a great deal more than any concession.”

Mr Jones, who said there was little consultation about the move, said there would be a great deal of opposition from rail users.

“What is worrying about this is that we are already operating a skeleton service at the moment, and by cutting these concessions, I fear that fewer people will use the line. The concern is that the service will be so under utilised that the next thing we will face is the service being axed altogether.”

He said he would approach the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP Jonathan Edwards to ask the council to think again.

Carmarthenshire council said it was one of the very few authorities offering concessionary rail travel, in addition to the Assembly Government’s travel pass giving free local bus travel throughout Wales to elderly and disabled people.

A council spokesman said the decision to remove the rail concession from April 30 “was taken reluctantly and has been driven by the tough economic constraints placed on the authority in these austere times.”

Free bus travel was unaffected, he added.



Read More http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2011/04/26/rail-travel-concessions-for-elderly-and-disabled-pulled-to-cut-costs-91466-28582281/#ixzz1KcPeGIp8
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