‘It is up to councils to solve tram issue’

MP Paul Maynard
MP Paul Maynard
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Pensioners who can no longer travel on Blackpool trams for free will not get any help from the Government, a senior MP has confirmed.

In an impassioned plea for help during a debate in Parliament, Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said it was ‘quite illogical’ that concessionary fares have been axed for Wyre residents.

It makes no sense, this postcode lottery

He said the fall-out from Blackpool Council’s decision to stop funding free travel for pensioners and disabled people living outside the resort had been a ‘major defining issue at the last election’.

But he defended the move, saying it was not for the council to subsidise travel for those living outside its boundary.

Speaking yesterday, in the debate he secured, Mr Maynard said he estimated it would cost Lancashire County Council, which is responsible for transport in Wyre, £170,000 to reinstate the concessionary fares.

He added: “That is a very simple proposal. It makes no sense to have this arbitrary divide and postcode lottery.”

Calling for an extension of the national concessionary travel scheme to include tram travel, Mr Maynard said:“It would make my day if we could force the Government’s hand in some way.

“I make no apologies for asking again for the minister to do that.”

But Transport minister Andrew Jones said the current national scheme already costs £950m a year.

He added: “It doesn’t come cheap and that is why, given the current economic situation, we do not have plans to extend the remit of the bus concessions any further.”

But while a national scheme – meaning eligible passengers would get free travel on any tram in the country regardless of where they live – would be an ‘extremely expensive undertaking’, he urged the councils to find a local solution.

He added: “I do not want to see any area where disabled access to transport is compromised.

“We want to see a solution which will continue to offer tramway access and support Blackpool’s trams – they are an iconic part of Blackpool.”