Fleetwood and Cleveleys residents tram pass bid rebuffed

One of the trams
One of the trams
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A plea to the Government to restore free tram travel for pensioners has been turned down.

Fleetwood MP Cat Smith raised the thorny issue of tram travel for the town’s pensioners and disabled people in the House of Commons.

Cat Smith MP

Cat Smith MP

She is campaigning for trams to be included in the free travel for all pensioners, not just buses.

At present, only Blackpool pensioners are able to use concessionary passes on trams as well as buses but Fleetwood and Cleveleys residents, who come under Wyre Council, can’t.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Ms Smith asked the Prime Minister to look into including trams in the National Concessionary Travel Scheme which is the national scheme behind the NOW cards in Lancashire.

The MP believes this may be able to solve the problem, which began last year after cash-starved Blackpool Council said it could no longer afford to cover non-Blackpool resident concessions.

There are no plans to extend the statutory scheme to include travel on any other mode of transport

The issue has been a political hot potato ever since, with Tory-led Wyre Council and Labour authorities Blackpool and Lancashire unable to reach agreement about who should pay for the concessions.

Labour MP Ms Smith said: “For many years, pensioners and disabled people in Fleetwood have enjoyed free access to the local tram service that connects the town to Blackpool.

“That free travel has been withdrawn due to funding cuts. Will the Prime Minister consider extending the national concessionary travel scheme to not just buses, but trams, which are often easier for older and disabled travellers to use?”

The Prime Minister gave no commitment when he replied: “I will look carefully at the point that the honourable lady raises.”

However, the following day Andrew Jones MP, a junior transport minister, wrote to Ms Smith saying: “The statutory minimum entitlement of the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme pertains to bus travel only and, given the current financial climate, there are no plans to extend the statutory scheme to include travel on any other mode of transport.”

Speaking in response to the events in Parliament, Ms Smith said, “I’m disappointed by the government’s lack of action on this issue. For a government that likes to talk the talk about standing up for our older and disabled people it certainly doesn’t walk the walk. An amendment to the National Concessionary Travel Scheme would be the clearest and fairest way of ensuring all pensioners, not just those in Fleetwood, could enjoy easy-access public transport.”

Fleetwood pensioner Angela Patchett has campaigned for the return of the concession to Wyre residents and even set up a petition asking Lancashire County Council to help.

She said: “I welcome the intervention of Cat Smith. Elderly and disabled pensioners in particular really struggle on the buses.

“The trams were brought in for the disabled in the first place. I would love to see this issue finally resolved.”