As a result of coronavirus and news that some supermarkets will be opening just for older people or those with a disability for their first hour of the day, the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) is extending the hours when concessionary bus passes can be used.
Time restriction for use of the Diamond Travelcard (concessionary pass) will be relaxed from Monday 23 March, so people can travel free at any time on journeys starting in the WECA and North Somerset areas. This will be reviewed at the end of June. At the moment holders of a Diamond Travelcard bus pass for eligible older and disabled people can travel on any local bus for free after 9am Mondays to Fridays and all day at weekends.
WECA has made the change with the support of its constituent councils, Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire, as well as North Somerset Council and local bus operators, to enable these vulnerable groups to access the early shopping opportunities.
West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “I want to make sure that our most vulnerable members of society are still able to get essential supplies. Our retailers have stepped forward to make sure older and vulnerable people have the opportunity to get what they need and these changes will make sure they can make the most of that opportunity. Of course, we would urge everyone to follow the Government’s advice and only travel if it is absolutely essential.”
Councillor Dine Romero, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “I am very grateful to all bus operators for their co-operation and prompt action in making this happen. We strongly recommend that our residents follow Government guidance, but those elderly and disabled residents who really have to use buses will now have more flexibility about when they travel whilst this situation continues.”
Councillor Kye Dudd, Bristol City Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “Bristol is a caring and supportive city, and it is wonderful to see people rallying around to help their family, friends and neighbours in these uncertain times. I would like to thank the bus operators for helping Bristol’s older generation to get to the shops and buy the essential items they need as conveniently and safely as possible. While it is important to keep bus services available for those who really need it, we would ask people to reduce travel where possible, and anyone who is experiencing any symptoms is being asked to stay at home and avoid public transport.”
Leader of South Gloucestershire Council Cllr Toby Savage said: “We are very pleased to be able to extend the hours of the Diamond Travelcard, which will help our older residents get to the local shops for their dedicated early morning shopping times. We all need to pull together to do all we can to help each other at this challenging time, and we will be working closely with WECA and other partners as we work to keep our most vulnerable residents safe and well.”