Fears of further cuts as free travel under threat

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BUS companies could face further funding cuts as the Scottish Government seeks to bring its free travel scheme under budget.

It is feared that reimbursement payments to operators who carry disabled passengers and over-60s will be slashed when a review is published this summer, it was reported today.

The timing of the review comes as Transport Minister Keith Brown met council chiefs from East Lothian Council to thrash out a plan to combat the withdrawal of First Bus from 20 Lothians routes.

Last week the Evening News reported passengers in Edinburgh face the threat of another 10p fare rise next year to make up for a shortfall in funding for concessionary travel.

When the National Concessionary Travel scheme was set up in 2006 bus companies were paid 73.6 per cent of a normal fare to ensure they were no better or worse off.

That rate was cut to 67 per cent in 2010 which is thought to have led to £18 million less in annual Government funding. Any further reduction would enable the Scottish Government to cut the funding for carrying the same number of passengers.