CPT ‘extremely cautious’ over FOE’s call for free buses

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Friends of the Earth’s Head of Research, Mike Childs, has called for bus travel to be made free for under 30s.

Discussing the release of the organisation’s latest research on public transport and climate change, Mike said: “It’s an idea whose time has well and truly arrived.

Free bus travel for the under 30’s at first, before widening the scheme, would make for more livable cities and cut damaging greenhouse gas emissions.

“Dozens of cities across the world offer some form of free public transport.

It would cost around £3bn a year but this is a fraction of the money spent on roads.

“Three times more journeys are by bus than train and they are the main means of transport for the car-less quarter of the population.

“What we are seeing instead is bus fares rising 75% over the last 15 years, and over 3,300 services reduced or removed since 2010 in England and Wales.”

In response, CPT Chief Executive Peter Gomersall said: “The bus industry very much welcomes Friends of the Earth’s recognition and understanding of the important role that buses have to play in reducing road congestion, reducing journey times and thereby improving local air quality.

“The bus industry is however extremely cautious about suggestions that bus travel should be free.

“The industry already offers a wide range of concessionary travel to older and disabled people, and many operators also offer reduced or free fares to children and those in full time education.

“A blanket ‘free fares’ policy would only serve to put intolerable pressure on the public purse at a time when local authorities are having to make very difficult decisions about how to allocate scarce financial resources – from social care, to keeping street lights on.

“The commercial bus market is best able to respond to passenger demands with the result that services remain stable and fares affordable.

“Furthermore, passengers give their local bus services a ringing endorsement through the Transport Focus annual bus passenger satisfaction survey with consistently high satisfaction ratings.”

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