In excellent news for users of the free bus pass for older and disabled residents, we are able to confirm that following successful negotiations with commercial bus operators free travel before 9.30am will now continue in Bedford Borough. This is an extra benefit that is on top of the national scheme that only allows free travel 'off peak,' after 9.30am. Prior to becoming Mayor I campaigned with colleagues to establish and protect the best possible scheme for local pensioners and disabled bus users, and now as Mayor I'm delighted that we've been able to protect the local addition to the national scheme and ensure that the free bus pass can be used all day.
With the requirement for a massive £36 million of savings over the next four years, the top-up peak-time use of the scheme was under pressure in the current climate.
However, just as in the case of the retention of weekly waste collections, we have been able to achieve savings for taxpayers and protect the service for residents. The deal that has been reached with the operators is for three years, placing the scheme on a sustainable footing and representing a fantastic result for both the older and vulnerable residents in the Borough who benefit from the extended scheme and for local taxpayers.
Of course, as our support for bus travel shows, we are committed to supporting public transport in the borough. This is why we are bucking the trend and continuing to support a strong network of rural bus routes at a time when other authorities are cutting back, and have introduced new Sunday and late-evening services in Bedford and Kempston.