Wednesday 21 February 2024
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Nottingham

Campaigners say free tram travel for vulnerable groups must stay

Elderly and disabled people across Nottingham will struggle to get to hospital appointments if changes to a free tram travel scheme go ahead, campaigners say.

A consultation is underway on whether Nottinghamshire County Council should scrap, reduce or keep free tram travel for these groups.

Campaigners held a protest against any changes at the Queen’s Medical Centre tram stop on Thursday (January 4), days before the consultation closed.

Save Free Tram Travel

Currently people aged over 65 or who have disabilities get free tram travel between 9.30am and 11pm on weekdays, and all day on weekends and bank holidays, which costs £900,000 per year.

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The Save Free Tram Travel in Notts group says it’s vital this continues.

Save Free Tram Travel3

Members sang “save our trams” and gathered signatures from passengers at the tram stop.

Robin Orgill, who uses a wheelchair, said: “We’re in the middle of a cost of living crisis where people have to count every penny. Tram travel just wouldn’t be affordable for many without the concessions.

Save Free Tram Travel4

“Trams are  ideal for accessing hospital appointments at places like QMC, and are much more likely to have wheelchair spaces available.

“If you’re waiting for a bus, the wheelchair spots are often full. You can easily miss an appointment while waiting for the next one.

“And in many places, buses stop running at 7pm while trams keep going until 11pm.

“If we do lose the concessions, it would also affect people’s ability to socialise, harming their mental health.”

Liz Silver, who is visually impaired, said: “Ending the concessions would have a huge impact for people like me, and make tram travel really difficult – some people won’t be able to afford it.

“Ticket machines aren’t always that accessible for visually impaired people like myself.”

Organiser Des Conway urged everyone to have their say in the consultation, even if they aren’t directly affected.

“Patients and staff here have been very receptive to our calls,” he said.

“We think the council should go further and make the concession passes 24/7 – starting at 9.30am just isn’t convenient for people who might have a 10am hospital appointment.”

Nottinghamshire County Council says it has a projected budget shortfall of £8.7m for 2024/25, and wants to hear whether tram concession changes should be made to reduce costs.

From May, the newly-elected mayor of the new devolved Combined County Authority will assume responsibility for funding public transport.

The new authority will receive an additional £1.5bn of transport funding, and all candidates have pledged that the concessions will continue.

•  Trams can’t compete with £2 bus fare cap as ticket prices rise for second time in a year

 

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