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Star comment: Cuts are a tram route to disaster

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For years, councils and public transport bodies have tried to get people out of their cars.

So it seems completely counter-productive to propose slashing the funding for pensioners, children and the disabled.

Not only does this just encourage more people to use the car, it is a rather mean option.

Pensioners have worked and paid their taxes all their lives.

Their free bus travel is protected by law but West Midlands transport authority Centro would pride itself on going the extra mile and letting them use the trams and trains for free as well outside of peak hours. Until now, that is.

One of Centro's buzz words, whenever it talks of public transport improvements, is 'connectivity'.

It is prepared to see £15 million spent in Wolverhampton to take the Midland Metro tram a mere third of a mile from its current terminus to the rail station in order that people can get off a train and go straight onto a tram.

It dreams of a system where every bus, train and tram links up with everything else and where people see public transport as a more attractive option to running a car, rather than as a necessity brought about because of financial constraints.

That £15m for the extension is not available to put into the annual budget to maintain an existing benefit.

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But it does serve to show how at odds these £14m money saving proposals are with the philosophy of those who oversee public transport in the West Midlands.

Bus fares for those who are not subsidised have increased steadily over the past decade to the point where a single journey is now £2.

Children have always been given a half fare because their own disposable income is so limited.

Increasing that fare to two thirds makes it far more difficult for them to get around to enjoy healthy pursuits outside of school.

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Their alternative will be to hang around on the streets near their homes, causing a further headache for the councils that fund Centro and who have ordered it to trim its budget.

Meanwhile if people are not travelling as much they are also not spending their money in the struggling shops of town and city centres.

The cuts unveiled today may help the transport authority to balance its books in the short term, but the consequences elsewhere could be to pave a road to ruin.

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