PENSIONERS will soon have to pay much more to use public transport.
Vale Royal Borough Council this week imposed a 400% price hike on the cost of rail cards for the over 60's and restricted the issue of taxi vouchers in a bid to save nearly £50,000.
The decision to raise the cost of a rail card from £2.50 to £12 and only issue taxi vouchers to households in rural areas without a car was passed by the borough's executive committee on Thursday.
The changes to the concessionary travel scheme have been introduced by the borough to help mitigate an estimated cost increase of £49,000 for 2005 /2006. Costs have gone up after an increase in expenditure.
The changes are due to come into force in April but there is still time for it to be re-considered at a budget meeting to be held before the end of the month.
Councillor Arthur Neil was opposed to the increase and says pensioners will lose out. The Labour councillor for Northwich Castle said: 'There may be a chance to change the decision at a budget meeting but I suspect it will not be. It is ridiculous, the fact there will be a 400% rise in one fell swoop is absolutely criminal in my opinion.'
The council is obliged, under the Transport Act 2000, to offer a free bus pass to the over 60's. At the moment, users have the choice of a free bus pass entitling the holder to half price fares on local buses, or a rail card at a charge of £2.50 entitling a third off rail fares, or taxi vouchers with a redeemable value of £35 for those in a rural parish.
A report to the executive group before the original decision was taken admitted that raising the fee of a rail card to £12 would be 'very unpopular' and would be more likely to make people switch to only receiving the free bus pass, thus losing out on a third of rail fares. Despite this, the council could lose thousands of pounds if people fail to buy a rail cards.
The increase would bring the fee in line with that charged by the majority of Cheshire authorities. But most others offer the bus pass and rail card combined for either the same price or a couple of pounds more.