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Axe threat to free West Midlands travel for elderly in Centro cuts

Sandwell | News | Published:

Free train and tram travel for pensioners is facing the axe while children's bus fares could soar, under transport spending cut proposals unveiled today.

West Midlands transport authority Centro said it has to slash £14 million from its £146m annual budget because cash-strapped councils that fund it have been forced to make cuts of their own.

It is now launching a consultation on the proposals, which also include cutting the budget of the door-to-door Ring and Ride service used by pensioners and disabled people.

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Options being looked at to save money include – children paying two thirds of the adult fare on buses instead of half; removing free local rail and tram travel for eligible people or introducing an annual charge of around £30; reducing the grant to Ring and Ride; reducing the number of taxpayer funded bus services.

The move would not affect free bus travel for pensioners and the disabled between 9.30am and 11pm, which Centro is obliged by the government to fund.

However it has previously found the funding to extend this service in the West Midlands to trains and the Midland Metro trams.

The leaders of the seven West Midlands district councils that fund Centro – Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull – have asked Centro to consult on ways to cut 10 per cent from its budget.

  • Star comment: Cuts are a tram route to disaster

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It must find £14 million of savings over the next two years.

Councillors will meet next Monday to consider the options and vote on launching a consultation.

Centro chairman Councillor John McNicholas said: "These are difficult options and if implemented would have a significant impact on the travelling public.

"That's why it's so important for people to tell us through the forthcoming consultation where they think we should make the savings and what effect those reductions would have on the way they travel."

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Wolverhampton City Council leader Roger Lawrence added: "Right across the country local authorities are being forced to make extremely tough choices because of the spending cuts being imposed by Government.

"The West Midlands is no exception and all areas of expenditure including transport need to be looked at to see where potential savings can be made.

"The options are not easy but I'm afraid this is the financial reality that has been imposed upon local Government."

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