Someone has to pay.
I have been asked by lots of people and there have been letters in the paper asking and indeed moaning about the decision by Torbay to remove it's self from the Devon County Wide scheme to provide free bus travel to two groups of people. The single, and simple answer is cost. It is costing too much. A couple of questions and a few examples will also help to explain why the whole idea is underfunded. The original idea was to provide free bus travel to pensioners and the disabled. But not only pensioners got included in the first group. In the UK you become a pensioner at 60 if you are female and 65 if you are male. But to refuse free travel to men over 60 while allowing it to women over 60 is discrimination on grounds of gender. So there are a lot of men out there still working, including me who can travel to a full time job free. Not free of course someone, some tax payer some where has to pay up. The second group, the disabled it seems to me is larger than the first. In fact I probable qualify under the disabled as, due to smoking I am unable to walk a long distance without taking a rest. This means, as my doctor once told me, I would qualify for a disabled drivers permit which would mean I could stick a blue badge in the windscreen of my car and park anywhere. ( OK not quite anywhere). All I had to do was get a form from the town hall and get him, my doctor, to sign it and I would get the blue badge. I would also have to get a car to stick the badge in, personally I would sooner walk. Or take a bus. Now when I heard that disabled people would get free travel I assumed it would be those who were, like pensioners, short of money due to their disability preventing them from holding down a job. If that were the criteria for disabled and the men between 60 and 65 were excluded the the 28 700 free pass holders in the Bay would be far less and much more affordable.
Three examples all from the past 3 days, on Friday I was just about to pull away from a stop in Torquay when I notice a female in her thirty's running towards the bus with her arm out. I wait a few second and she got on, produced a pass, asked for Paignton and then thanked me for waiting saying, "If I'd missed you I would have been late for work." Next yesterday I was just about to pull away from the stop in Fleet St when a female, early sixty's rushed up, "Hang on a sec please." She then called to a group of her 4 friends, "Come on girls, you've all got your passes." Where were they going? The Harbour. It's the next stop, 200 yards away. Downhill all the way. "Well it's free." she said, laughing. To which I replied, "No it's not. It's just cost the rate payers of Torbay almost £4.50." The fare, had they all paid would have been 60p each. £3.00. The last one was to day, a couple got on in Fleet Walk, "Abbey Rd." and flashed two passes. Abbey Rd is the next stop the other way from the Harbour and even closer. As they were both under 40 these passes must have been issued under the disabled rule. When they got off in Abbey Rd they must have been late for where they were going because they both set of at a run up the hill as fast as their legs could carry them.
So dear sweet little old lady, so old you can remember Nevil Chamberlain waving his piece of paper and dismissing the chance of war, when you want a day out in Exeter and have to pay £2.00 instead of going for free as you can now, you can have a guess at the reason. Mr Mayor, when you say you want to make changes for the good of the Bay and the people who live here have a look at what qualifies some people for a free bus pass a little more carefully.