New fares changes for Dial-a-Ride services

A Preston Community Transport minibus
A Preston Community Transport minibus
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Elderly people will be forced to fork out for Dial-a-Ride bus journeys after a funding subsidy was cut.

Charges will be introduced from July, when passengers will no longer be able to use their NoW cards to travel for free on community transport services.

The move will cost travellers £2 for a single journey of up to two miles, £5 for longer trips to 18 miles and £10 for anything over that.

Meanwhile, the Red Rose Runner service, which provides transport to medical appointments in Chorley and South Ribble, will be axed.

Transport bosses at Lancashire County Council insisted new charges on Dial-a-Ride were unavoidable because of huge funding shortfalls.

But a bus operator manager today spoke of his disappointment with a decision they said they were “forced” to accept.

Coun Tim Ashton, cabinet member for transport at Lancashire County Council, said: “It has been a very tough decision.

“We have managed to retain a service where there was one before but unfortunately we cannot allow passengers to use their NoW cards from July.

“We put out 1,000 questionnaires and 85% of people told us they were willing to pay.

“If we did fund it (at current levels), it would mean we would have to make savings elsewhere.”

He added an emergency £100,000 pot had been set aside to help operators struggling with an anticipated dip in passenger number following the fare introduction.

However, Joe Hannett, manager of Preston Community Transport, said he still had fears about how the fares would impact on his elderly passengers and the charity which runs the service.

He said: “We had no choice but to accept this proposal.

“I appreciate the officers’ work in trying to find a solution but it was a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.

“The people who use our service can’t get on a regular bus instead - they have higher needs and a high risk of social isolation without Dial-a-Ride.”

District councils in Lancashire used to provide funding for community transport, until responsibility for the scheme passed over to Lancashire County Council, which provides £1m towards services like Dial-a-Ride.

Council chiefs say benefits advice will be available for pensioners struggling to pay the new bus fees.

Passengers with NoW cards will still be able to use them for free travel on conventional bus services.