Edinburgh trams: Free fares for under-22s scheme to continue despite end of funding
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Passengers under 22 can still travel free on Edinburgh's trams despite the city council ending funding for the policy. The cash-strapped authority agreed to axe funding for the concessionary fare when councillors set the budget for 2023-24 in February. But because the trams currently have enough capacity to carry under-22s there is little extra cost involved and the free fares have remained. However, with passenger numbers expected to grow when the extension of the line to Newhaven opens, it is not clear whether it will be feasible for the unfunded concessionary travel for under-22s to continue.
Although the Scottish Government made bus travel for under-22s free in January 2022, it has refused to extend the scheme to travel by tram. The council therefore agreed to fund free tram fares for under-22s, but that stopped in March this year. At Thursday’s transport committee, Lib Dem group leader Kevin Lang asked whether it was possible that free travel could now carry on without the council paying for it.
Paul Lawrence, the council’s director of place, said: “What we are trying to do is see if there is a way of achieving the outcome while following the council’s decision not to fund this scheme. The conversation we have been having with Edinburgh Trams is ‘What is the true cost of this to them and more broadly?’ We are having a discussion to understand the cost and then we can consider a funding source.” But he said the cost was “not that high” because carrying under-22s did not involved “lots of additional staff or lots of additional trams”.
Transport convener Scott Arthur said he had written to new transport minister Kevin Stewart pointing out that the extension of the tram to Newhaven would open the tram service to young people in some quite deprived areas and it would make sense for them to have access to trams on the same basis as buses.
Cllr Arthur told the Evening News: "Following the SNP/Green Government’s refusal to fund under-22 tram travel on the same basis as buses, I’ve been in discussion with Edinburgh Trams and Lothian Buses about the impact on their services, customers and staff. I am proud of how Edinburgh Trams have shown real leadership on this by putting its staff and customers first. Although there is still uncertainty, I am pleased that Edinburgh Trams can continue to offer free travel, at least on an interim basis, to eligible people under 22 years old. This means that young people along the route, including those in Leith quite soon, can take full advantage of Edinburgh’s publicly owned integrated bus and tram service.”