Disabled bus passengers in parts of Lancashire who travel during the morning rush hour are set to see their fares doubled.
The current flat rate of 50 pence for NoWCard holders travelling before 9.30am will go up to £1. It is the first time there has been an increase in the charge for a decade and it will affect passengers travelling in areas controlled by Lancashire County Council - but not Blackpool.
The free travel offered after 9.30am on weekdays and any time at weekends will continue as normal.
A public consultation on the proposal showed just under half of respondents were opposed to the change, with 42 percent in favour.
The survey also revealed that 45 percent of NoWCard holders who responded to the survey had regularly travelled before 9.30am in the last twelve months.
Lancashire County Council’s member for transport, Keith Iddon, told the cabinet meeting where the increase was approved that the flat rate was under threat if it was not made more financially sustainable.
He added that travelling at that time of the day suggested that the people affected would be working.
But deputy leader of the Labour opposition, John Fillis, drew a contrast with a decision about mobile phone provision for councillors which was taken at the same meeting.
“This is a 100 percent increase [in fares] - and we’ve just voted through some iPhones for councillors,” County Cllr Fillis said.
“If you actually look at the saving [from the NoWcard changes] of £43,000 compared to the £38,000 [potential cost of councillors’ new phones], it’s not much difference.”
But leader of the Conservative-run authority, Geoff Driver responded: “You clearly don’t understand the difference between one-off costs [like phones], for which there is provision in the budget, and on-going costs [like NoWCards] for which there isn’t.
“If we don’t make savings in areas like this, we will inevitably end up not being to provide services for the most vulnerable people,” County Cllr Driver said.
The flat rate during rush hour is also offered by the standalone councils in Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen.
That means journeys which begin in either of those areas will continue to be charged at the 50 pence rate.