Labour warns cuts to tram concession fares will inflict a cruel penalty on Hucknall's most vulnerable

Labour councillors on Nottinghamshire County Council have raised concerns over the future of funding for concessionary tram users, despite having recently forecast significant underspending on concessionary fares of £550,000 in a recent committee meeting.

The decision could affect more 150,000 Nottinghamshire residents who are eligible for this concessionary scheme, including those with physical and learning disabilities.

Although concessions will remain for bus travel, the non-statutory support for tram usage is set to be reviewed, following a consultation proposed in a report by the Conservative Group at a recent Transport and Environment Committee on 5 January.

The popular tram concession scheme currently costs the council £900,000 on a ‘no better or no worse off’ reimbursement scheme to tram operators as calculated by the Department for Transport.

Labour county councillors have said the vulnerable will suffer if concessionary tram fares are cut

Prior to Covid-19, approximately 1.1 million annual tram journeys were undertaken by 60,000 Nottinghamshire residents, including those with physical and mental health disabilities who have benefitted from the concessionary scheme.

While bus travel has been suggested in the report as an alternative means of transport for concession users, with no commitment to any additional bus services to mitigate the changes and no proposed impact assessment, the Labour Group have raised serious concerns.

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Coun Kate Foale, Labour group leader at County Hall, said: “We know that the public transport sector has been deeply impacted during this pandemic.

"To even propose these cuts is regressive.

"The council should be supporting and encouraging people to use public transport, not dissuading them from doing so.

“The consequences of any future decision to cut concessionary tram passes have not been thoroughly considered.

“It contradicts the council’s climate change strategy for a start.

"Have the Conservatives considered the impact of those who will have to pursue other routes as a result of removing these concessions, especially those who will be forced to going back to car travel?

“In addition to any alternative being a less environmentally friendly outcome, any other method of transport will increase traffic on our roads, and ultimately that benefits no-one.

“I am also particularly concerned about the welfare of those who will have their independence stripped should this consultation result in a removal of these concessions.

“As leader of the Conservative group, Coun Ben Bradley should take responsibility and intervene, save taxpayer money by scrapping a needless consultation, and commit to ensuring the concessionary scheme will continue.”

Labour also opposes the changes on environmental grounds.

Coun Penny Gowland, Labour transport and environment committee member, said: “How can this council declare a climate emergency whilst also making policy changes to disincentivise passengers to use the most environmentally friendly form of mass transit?

"It’s totally contradictory.

“In a recent committee meeting, one report advised members that transport is the main contributor to UK greenhouse gas emissions – 22 per cent – and this was followed by the Conservative group proposing a significant cut to concessions for tram users with physical or learning disabilities.

“This cut will disincentivise the use of the tram, the most environmentally-friendly method of mass transport in the county for some of the most vulnerable people in the county, including those with physical or learning disabilities.

"It is not only a senseless decision but one which is intentionally cruel.”