Edinburgh trams: Unanimous call for free fares for under-22s to be funded by Scottish Government
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The move comes after council officials recommended ending the free fares for young people because of huge savings the authority faces having to make in next year’s budget.
The government refused to include either Edinburgh’s trams or Glasgow’s subway in the scheme giving free bus travel to under-22s when it was introduced in January this year.
The council has so far paid Edinburgh Trams £109,000 up to August to provide the free fares, but with the extension of the line to Newhaven, due to open in spring next year, the number of under-22s using the tram is expected to increase and officials predict the cost could be £304,000.
The transport committee did not accept the recommendation to axe the free fares. Cllr Arthur said it was a matter which would have to be decided when the council set its budget for next year.
But he said, from amendments submitted by other parties, it was clear there was a lot of consensus on the matter. “We all feel it is right that under-22s get free tram travel access on the same basis as bus and we all feel it’s right the Scottish Government should cover that.”
The committee agreed Cllr Arthur should write to the Scottish Government asking that under-22 tram travel in Edinburgh is funded as part of the Young Persons' Free Bus Travel Scheme.
SNP transport spokesman Danny Aston said he knew there were going to be a lot of hard decisions to be made at budget time, but added the free tram fares for under-22s would be “very much a high priority” for his group.
Lib Dem Sanne Dijkstra-Downie praised the council for stepping in when the government refused to pay. And she continued: “Removing it would be unfair and create a postcode lottery, it’s not in line with trying to get people to travel sustainably and it makes no sense in the way Edinburgh’s network works. The government should fund our young people’s travel properly. With council budgets stretched in the way they are, it’s not right the council should be picking up the tab for a flaw in the government’s policy.”
Green transport spokeswoman Jule Bandel said she agreed with what had been said and added her party wanted all public transport in Scotland to be free.
Under-22s have made 60,000 free tram journeys in Edinburgh to date. The council also meets the cost of free tram fares for the over-60s and disabled people since the government has excluded tram from the concessionary bus fares scheme for them as well.