On the day that free off-peak bus travel for pensioners is extended so that they can travel anywhere in England, Liberal Democrat councillors Lesley Rideout and Robert Thurston reveal that they are still receiving letters from pensioners who have been given tickets for longer journeys than those they have taken.
Senior citizens have been sending Lesley samples of their tickets, together with details of their actual journeys and comments.
- "My ticket is always wrong, I would say that it has been for the whole year."
- "I feel very ashamed now that I haven't reported this earlier, but I thought it was normal."
- "Many times the drivers have the tickets in their hands without even knowing what the destination is."
- "This has been a con ever since we had the free bus passes."
Cllr Rideout said:
"The evidence we are gathering shows that the practice of issuing wrongly extended tickets to pensioners is even more widespread than we first thought. It's certainly not the isolated example that Arriva are claiming. We're seeking a meeting with Arriva, Essex County Council and consultants MCL to discuss the evidence we have been sent and what they propose to do about it."
Cllr Robert Thurston added:
"The council has to pay the bus companies a high percentage of the cost of journeys undertaken using a bus pass. That cost has been going through the roof recently - leading to higher bills for the council, redundancies and reductions in other services. I'm furious that so many tickets appear to be for much longer journeys than actually happened, and I'm determined to put a stop to it."
Cllrs Rideout and Thurston are calling for the compulsory installation and use of smart-card readers on all buses, and for the Government to fully fund the increased costs of concessionary bus travel under the new England-wide scheme.
Residents receiving incorrect tickets are encouraged to continue sending them to Cllr Lesley Rideout.