Bus petition support

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NATIONAL support continues to build for Norfolk County Council’s campaign to secure fair funding from the Government for its concessionary bus scheme, as more than 14,000 people back the argument for change to help protect bus services across the county.

The petition was launched in response to a £4.5million shortfall in funding for the concessionary bus scheme.

Cumbria County Council is the latest authority to join the County Council’s Fair Fares campaign, launched at the end of September. In backing the campaign, Cumbria is calling on the Government to “ensure that concessionary fares are funded properly” so it isn’t “necessary for local authorities to further cut these vital services”.

The Fair Fares campaign received another boost last week with the news that Somerset County Council had signed the petition. Cheshire West and Chester Council has also written to the County Council to express its support for the campaign. Devon County Council, The Campaign for Better Transport and the Local Government Association’s Public Transport Consortium have also previously backed the campaign.

More than 14,000 people have signed the Fair Fares petition. Councillors and officers have been out collecting signatures from people around the county.

The County Council is asking people to return their petitions by the end of November. Petitions should be posted to Travel and Transport Services, County Hall, Martineau Lane, Norwich, NR1 2SG.

Graham Plant, Cabinet member for Planning and Transportation at Norfolk County Council, said: “This campaign is gathering momentum and support from right across the country, and I am delighted that another three councils have backed our campaign for fairer funding and, in doing so, acknowledge the vital lifeline that rural transport offers to many people in our communities.

“We have also had a magnificent response from the people of Norfolk; to collect more than 14,000 signatures in little more than a month is incredible and illustrates the strength of feeling that exists in Norfolk to keep the pressure on the Government to provide adequate funding so we can deliver the concessionary bus pass scheme and keep our buses running.

“We will always speak up strongly for Norfolk, locally, regionally and nationally and do all we can to support safer and stronger communities. Offering free off-peak travel to the over 60s and people with disabilities is essential in a county like Norfolk but we can’t do it alone; the Government must give us the tools to do the job.”

The e-petition can be signed via the front page of the County Council’s website at www.norfolk.gov.uk or at county council libraries.

Under the Government’s scheme, eligible older and disabled people are entitled to free off-peak travel, and there are 183,000 passholders in Norfolk. However, the costs of providing the minimum scheme far outstrip resources allocated by the Government, and councils are not allowed to charge for the pass or a fare where a free fare must be offered.

The funding shortfall is putting extreme pressure on maintaining rural bus services. This gap will continue to grow if the Government does not take action, as the number of bus journeys in Norfolk continues to increase.