Ever since the Labour government of the time announced a free bus concessionary travel scheme across England in the early 21st century there has been one major flaw in that it did exactly as it said on the tin – with central government funding to reimburse bus operators only with tram and light rail not included. This has led to an inconsistent application across the country – the situation in Blackpool in particular has been well reported over the years – with it down to local authorities having to provide funding out of their own budgets. And now with Council budgets being tightened Nottinghamshire County Council are proposing removing funding for free tram travel on Nottingham Express Transit.
In a report presented to the Transport and Environment Committee during January it was stated that the Council currently spend approximately £1.028m per annum on the discretionary elements of the Concessionary travel scheme and they were seeking permission to start a consultation on whether to continue with this going forward.
Whilst the free bus travel is a nationwide scheme which is covered by central government and is a statutory requirement, the use of Nottingham City Council and Nottingham County Council concessionary passes on the trams is not and is currently a special discretionary arrangement. This allows for free travel on the trams afteor 0930 and before 2300 weekdays and all day at weekends for holders of Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council concessionary passes only. The County Council are responsible for covering the scheme across the whole network.
As part of the report it is proposed that this arrangement remains in place for the 2022/23 financial year but that a public consultation takes place on the future of the discretionary scheme.
It is said: “Due to the significant cost of the non-statutory tram concession, it is considered prudent to publicly consult on a range of options around the tram concession in the future. The options to be considered will include the continuation of the current tram concession arrangements, revised arrangements to maintain access for priority groups and partial or full withdrawal. A further committee report will follow the consultation in Summer 2022.”
The Committee meeting approved the proposal and a consultation will now take place ahead of a further report being produced with the results and recommendations.