Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Metro Warning; OAPs Told They Could Lose Their Passes as Funding Cuts Begin

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Metro Warning; OAPs Told They Could Lose Their Passes as Funding Cuts Begin

Article excerpt

Byline: ADRIAN PEARSON

PENSIONERS have been warned they could lose their Metro passes as the Government prepares to hand transport bosses massive funding cuts.

Job losses are expected at Nexus, the group behind the Tyne and Wear Metro, despite the previous Government handing over more than pounds 350m for a station and trains refit.

Staff have been told that at the very least 10% will be wiped off budgets, with bosses working on a 10% cut in the 700 strong workforce as a result.

And the much-fought-for Government money behind the Metro's Gold Card is also expected to go or be reduced from next year as Government cost cutting continues.

The move means pensioners paying just pounds 12 a year for free travel face having the benefit withdrawn or charges increased as part of cost cutting measures.

Tynesiders, and the Evening Chronicle, battled for years for the Government to correct a mistake and provide the cash for concessionary fares on light rail.

While money was available for buss passes there was no cash for Metro discounts until April 2006.

Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell said the Government had to accept the blame for what was happening to transport on Tyneside.

"This is almost the inevitable consequence of the Government cutting too deep and too fast.

"We are with hindsight lucky to get the Metro Reinvigoration money but that was only because the contracts were already signed and they could not get out of this.

"I'm sure that Nexus will do what it can to minimise the cuts but with between 20% and 40% coming in the long run the effect will be pretty difficult to deal with, especially in terms of jobs."

He added: "The Chronicle did a lot to help to make the case for these concessionary passes and I think we all know now how much we need them.

"It is pensioners and the most vulnerable who will now bear the brunt if these are removed.

"And I think it is clear that withdrawing the additional funding for concessionary travel means the Government's claims to be safeguarding free busses passes is a hollow one."

Bob Pinkerton, Northern secretary for the National Pensioners' Convention, said the passes made a big difference to lives of many. …

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