12 March 2006

Soap Box Sunday- Free Travel

"A soapbox is a raised, improvised platform on which one stands to make an impromptu speech, often about a political subject. Alternately, the word may be used to describe the box that soap comes in." Wikipedia

I make no apologies for coming back to this subject again. It is such a mess and once again the people of Plymouth are getting a bum deal. Thanks to the City Council for that.

I have been looking at the arrangements across Devon & Cornwall and it soon becomes apparent just how poor the Plymouth deal is. Cornwall County have a simple county wide scheme available all day. Journeys beginning or ending in Cornwall.

Devon things are slightly different. Most of Devon have a good county wide scheme for travel all over Devon after 9am. This includes travel in the two areas not in the scheme: East Devon and Plymouth.

East Devon are quite apologetic and put it down to negotiations with the other councils. At the moment they have a local scheme only. No time restrictions mentioned. They do say they will be reviewing the restrictions so it may yet join the county wide scheme.

So, Plymouth. What delights do you have to tempt your citizens? Not much really. Plymouth wide travel only. After 9.30am weekdays. And it looks like for blind people and the over 80's free travel is only available until 11.pm! Does this mean they will have to pay to catch the last bus home?

One other thing I have noticed is the different presentation styles of the councils. See the Cornwall web page about the scheme. This page is linked to from most of the local authorities in the scheme. I found it nice and easy - most people will.

Devon have a similar page which offers a good clear explanation of the scheme which is also easy to find on their web site.

East Devon who like Plymouth offer a poor scheme do at least have a decent web page to explain it all.

But then we come to Plymouth. Oh dear. After a lot of searching I found this less than friendly page. It may have the basic details but you get the feeling they don't really want too many people to know about the scheme they are offering.

Once again Plymouth City Council offer us the worst they can get away with. You really feel they just cant be bothered with it all. I am sure they must have much better things to be getting on with.

Please don't think I am being party political here. The whole free travel scheme is over complicated and expensive - that's Gordon Browns fault. That what he does with everything.

But when local authorities who want to make a difference for their citizens get together they can come up with decent travel schemes. Devon & Cornwall show that.

And I am not just against the local Labour run City Council. Plymouth City Council has show contempt for the people of Plymouth for many years. The political flavour of the council at any moment in time seems to make no difference. Which ever group is in charge the result for people in Plymouth is a poor service in almost all areas of governance.


  1. Graham... this sort of thing is being replicated in a number of areas in England. In some places, there's a wealth of opportunity with free travel; in others, less so. I still firmly believe that free travel is a leap forward for the bus industry, for elderly people, and for social inlcusion. It will be so in Plymouth, in spite of the artificial boundary.

    Then again, if Plymothians could enjoy free travel throughout Devon to their east and north, presumably they'd still be unable to go west into Cornwall.

    One very positive fact I picked up from the Plymouth web page was free travel on Ring and Ride services. Without fully understanding it, that will be costly to the local tax payer but it is a significant bonus. Am not aware of this sort of benefit being widely available throughout England - but am prepared to be corrected!

  2. Graham,
    Both the Conservatives and Lib Dems have said they will reverse the decision to withdraw from the Devonwide scheme if they take control of the City Council after local elections in May.
    Sue Danns (Lab), Cabinet Member on the City Council responsible for transport,has only one answer to whatever points are put to her. She says the Council cannot afford any extension to the free city-wide scheme. She says that the council has no idea how many Plymouthians have Countywide/Devonwide passes and that she is not prepared to write an open cheque.
    I am disgusted with the Plymouth Evening Herald who are prepared to organise petitions and give massive publicity to their campaign to get more three hour train services to London but seem unwilling to campaign for Plymouth over 60s and disabled people so that they can enjoy the same benefits as our Cornish neighbours and most of the rest of Devon.


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