Capital’s over-60s get behind free fares campaign

Pensioner Stephen Holland
Pensioner Stephen Holland
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PENSIONERS who fear they will be left even worse off if bus passes are ruled invalid on trams have backed our campaign to win them a Fare Deal.

We told yesterday how over-60s face being barred from using their passes on trams – unless the Scottish Government allows concessionary fares to be extended to the network.

Failure to include trams in concessionary travel arrangements would mean more buses having to stay on the roads, undermining the benefits of the £776m tram project and leaving thousands of OAPs already struggling with sky-high fuel bills worse off.

Murrayfield retiree Stephen Holland said he would not hesitate in protesting when the much maligned system starts next year. The 71-year-old former librarian catches the bus from Roseburn Terrace into the city centre most days.

He is among hundreds of people aged over 60 in the Capital’s western suburbs who stand to lose out if the national concessionary fares scheme is not applied to trams.

The service used by Mr Holland stops only a third of a mile away from the Murrayfield Stadium tram station, meaning it could be at risk of cuts.

The Murrayfield Community Council treasurer said: “There’s quite a lot of elderly people around here and our understanding, as far as it goes, is that the buses would continue because the tram is not going along the main road anyway. It goes at the back and up to Murrayfield rugby stadium.

“We think the airport bus will be reduced in frequency, but otherwise we would expect the buses to continue much as they are at the moment.”

Betty Milton, chairwoman of Sighthill, Broomhouse and Parkhead Community Council, said she used her bus pass to travel to the Gyle business district, city centre and as far afield as North Berwick.

The pensioner said she expected the Scottish Government to keep a commitment made in writing six years ago by TIE – Edinburgh’s failed trams company – that concessionary fares for the elderly and disabled would apply to the tram.

The Bankhead tram station lies just to the north of Sighthill, threatening a reduction of bus services in the district.

Ms Milton said of free travel: “It’s a great way of keeping older people going out and about and that to me is very important. Going out is one of the best things for older people if they’ve the ability to do so.”

Free travel on trams for the elderly and disabled is being backed by the Evening News under the Fare Deal For Over-60s campaign.

The Scottish Government is believed to be concerned over pressure to extend concessions to Glasgow’s underground, and even ScotRail trains, if it allows free bus passes to be accepted on trams in the Capital.

However, Age Scotland is due to release a report this spring showing evidence of the positive benefits of concessionary transport.

Community and campaigns officer for the body Doug Anthoney welcomed our campaign.

He said: “One of the concerns we have is that there are limitations – for example, that it’s limited to commercial bus services. We would support extending it to include the trams.”