Plan to scrap free fares for over-60s on Edinburgh trams condemned as 'completely unacceptable'

Pensioners' charity warns proposal could lead to more loneliness and isolation

Thursday, 21st November 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 22nd November 2019, 12:08 pm
The Scottish Government funds concessionary fares on buses - but not the trams
The Scottish Government funds concessionary fares on buses - but not the trams

PLANS to scrap concessionary fares on Edinburgh’s trams as part of the council’s latest budget cuts have been condemned as “completely unacceptable”.

Pensioners charity Age Scotland has written to every councillor in the city warning against creating a two-tier transport system in the Capital.

The Evening News revealed yesterday the proposal to end funding for free tram travel by over-60s and disabled people, put forward by officials, was one of the measures being considered by the city’s SNP-Labour coalition in its search for £36 million of savings.

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Critics say axing free fares could mean an increase in loneliness among old folk

But the idea - which would save £690,000 - was attacked by opposition parties and campaigners.

Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland, said the concessionary transport scheme was a lifeline for tens of thousands of older people.

He said: “This is completely unacceptable and would lead to a two-tier transport system.

“We know that trams are especially valued by older people with limited mobility, as they’re easily accessible. Putting the brakes on this scheme will undoubtedly discourage people from getting out and about, and could lead to more loneliness and isolation.”

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Free fares for over-60s on Edinburgh trams could be scrapped in latest council c...

In his letter to councillors he said: “Instead of reducing access to trams for older people, Age Scotland believes the capital city should be leading by example to create a fairer, more accessible, fully integrated transport system for all its residents.”

Council officials have said if the council ends its funding for concessionary tram fares it would then be up to the Scottish Government or Transport for Edinburgh to step in. But insiders are sceptical that any other organisation is likely to meet the cost.

Tory transport spokesman Nick Cook said winter could be an anxious and isolating time for many older people.

“To float axing concessions at the onset of winter shows how out of touch Labour and the SNP are with Edinburgh residents.

“However, the situation raises concerns for all bus and tram users, who may have to stump up for higher fares as a result. On top of already funding the tram extension, the future profitability of Lothian Buses becomes a huge concern.”

Lib Dem transport spokesman Kevin Lang said: “This proposal shows just how dysfunctional the administration’s policy on public transport has become. They talk a good game on encouraging people to switch away from cars but they propose new barriers which run completely contrary to that aim - and all because we face the prospect yet again of the SNP massively cutting the council’s budget.”

Green finance spokesperson Gavin Corbett said the concessionary travel pass for buses and trams was a highly valued benefit for older and disabled people.

“There’s a climate emergency in which the council should be encouraging more use of public transport not less.

“It’s time the SNP-Labour administration stopped treating the budget like a game of leaks and focused on producing robust proposals which work in the interests of the city.”