A passenger watchdog today backed calls for visiting pensioners to be charged to travel on Blackpool’s trams.
The Blackpool Passenger Focus Group says the resort is one of the only towns in the UK which offers the extra discount to ‘out-of-towners’.
Focus Group chairman Stephen Brookes said pensioners from Blackpool would be charged to travel on Manchester’s trams, yet Manchester pensioners can travel free of charge on Blackpool trams.
He said: “Following suggestions visitors to Blackpool will lose the ability to have free travel on our trams, it is important to note that the whole process of free travel on Blackpool buses and the light rail system is one which is a little unique.
“Normally the Government sponsored travel scheme only covers bus services.
“Some local authorities such as Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, London and Newcastle have decided to allow bus passes to be used on local trains, the tube etc, but they are only available free to bus pass holders who live within that local authority.
“And importantly so far as Blackpool is concerned, a Scottish pass isn’t valid in England.
“We know that lots of people are complaining of this, but equally we must note that those of us visiting Scotland from England or Wales know that the same constraint applies to the use of our cards.
“In fact for me to travel in Manchester on the Metro means I pay full fare, whereas people from there get free Blackpool tram travel.
“So the whole system is an imbalance.”
The issue has come under the spotlight after it emerged Blackpool Council is facing a £1m deficit to pay for the concessionary fares scheme.
Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn has ordered a report to be prepared looking at how the financial black hole can be plugged.
One of the options is to ditch free tram travel for out-of-town pensioners.
But the trams would remain free for OAPs resident in the town.
Blackpool Council receives around £4.4m in total each year from the Government to pay for concessionary fares, but the surge in passengers using the trams increased the cost to around £5.5m.
The Concessionary Bus Travel Scheme was introduced in 2008 by the Government, but councils can offer additional discretionary benefits they wish.