Plans to promote 'independence' as Portsmouth council seeks to extend disabled bus pass scheme

Cllr Lynne Stagg from Portsmouth City Council
Cllr Lynne Stagg from Portsmouth City Council
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CHARITIES have welcomed plans to extend a scheme allowing disabled people to use buses for free all day.

Portsmouth City Council is considering extending its trial of disabled concessionary bus passes launched in April this year.

It gives pass holders free travel in the city before 9.30am. Previously they were limited until after this time.

Sharon Smithson, the chairwoman of the Portsmouth Disability Forum, said: ‘We have had really good feedback from the trial, especially from younger people. This allows them to have more freedom and independence.

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Sharon, who uses a wheelchair, added: ‘I have been using the pass myself and I am very grateful to the council for the trial. I’ve been using it quite frequently in the mornings. I hope this is something they are able to keep going.’

If the trial extension is approved at a decision meeting next week it will run until the end of March 2020, allowing for more data to be gathered.

Cabinet member for traffic and transport, Councillor Lynne Stagg, said: ‘Initially we trialled this because disabled people asked for it. There are a lot of young disabled people in Portsmouth who need to get to college and of course that starts before 9.30am.

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‘We are still waiting for all the data to come in to find out exactly how many people have used their passes before 9.30am and how much it will cost the council.’

Concessionary bus passes for people aged over 60 cost Portsmouth City Council £4.5m a year.

Currently there are 4,353 disabled pass holders who are entitled to all-day travel under this trial.

Madeleine Durie, the chief executive of Hampshire-based disability charity The Minstead Trust, said: ‘We are delighted that the council has extended the concessionary bus pass trail for another six months.

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‘Our vision is that people with learning disabilities can live as full citizens in our society and this is a great example of where the change will mean that they have equal access to things happening across the city.’

The cost of concessionary passes is covered by council parking reserves.