GMITA: Discount bus fares to change

Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority has announced concessionary bus fares in Greater Manchester are set to change from 3 April 2011.

The decision to change the concessionary fare scheme was formally agreed by GMITA on Friday 11 February when it confirmed its wider budget.

The changes were first proposed when the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities recommended how much the ten district councils should give GMITA through the levy for the next financial year.

GMITA said the changes agreed will affect young people aged 5 to 16 and students who use a Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive pass to travel to and from college, as well as some disabled people and passengers aged over 60 travelling before 9.30am on weekdays.

As part of cost savings of more than £40m over the next three years, the local concessionary bus fare scheme, which is funded by the levy and currently provides a flat fare of 80p, will change in April to half the normal adult fare for the journey being made.

People over 60 will continue to travel free on buses after 9.30am on weekdays under the national concessionary scheme but, from 3 April, will have to pay a full adult fare when travelling before 9.30am on weekdays as part of the changes agreed on Friday.

GMITA will continue to fund free travel for those aged over 60 on local trains and trams after 9.30am on weekdays.

Holders of concession plus passes will still be able to travel free on local services at all times, GMITA said.

The changes will cut GMITA's costs by £23.4m over the next three years.

Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive, which implements the policies of GMITA, will cut costs by a further £20m over the same period through other means, including procurement savings and organisational efficiency measures.

GMITA said changing the local concessionary bus fare will allow it to protect its spending on subsidised bus services.

GMITA added that these are services which are not commercially viable for bus operators and would not run without its financial support, and include services on the general bus network, dedicated school buses, and demand-responsive services such as Local Link.

Cllr Ian Macdonald, chairman of GMITA, said: "Our budget recognises the need, during this challenging economic period, to maintain services to the travelling public in a more cost-efficient manner.

"The pressures on the budgets of all public service providers, including the ten Greater Manchester councils, are creating very significant challenges.

"As ever, we are committed to the getting the best deal for passengers – and taxpayers – by delivering maximum benefit and value from every pound we spend.

"I know how important concessionary fares are, especially at a time when household budgets are under strain, but changing the concessionary fare means we are able to protect the subsidised bus network as far as possible to ensure that people still have bus services to use in the first place, even where services would not be viable for a commercial operator."

Cllr Keith Whitmore, Vice Chairman of GMITA, added: "Concessionary travel is, in terms of services, the second biggest investment we make each year. Changing it to a half fare will bring us into line with neighbouring municipal areas such as Derbyshire and West Yorkshire.

"This is not the only way of making savings that we looked at, and it certainly wasn't the first – we found £20m of savings from our own cost base before we looked at anything else.

"We are making these changes to concessionary fares in order to protect our essential services – including bus services that commercial operators would not otherwise run – and to ensure that we can continue to invest in public transport for the benefit of everyone."

GMPTE will work with bus operators to ensure information is widely available to passengers in advance of the changes coming into effect.

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