15 May 2008

Welsh concessionary free travel extended

The Cambrian Coast railway is to be included in the remit of concessionary free travel within Wales, as too is train travel between Wrexham-Bidston. Currently, those holding free concessionary Welsh bus passes can also travel for free on the Conwy Valley line and this is set to continue for a second year. Free travel is also currently permissable, between October-April, on the Heart of Wales line.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, Deputy First Minister of Wales, outlined his plans to extend the number of sections of Welsh railway that would allow free concessionary travel. He said, "I have concluded that there have been a wide range of benefits from the pilot scheme, which has extended the availability of free travel on trains to bus pass holders. In addition, there have been benefits to the local economy and social accessibility as well as encouraging a reduction in the use of private cars."

Full details of the specifics contained within the new proposals are listed below:

1. An extension to cover the Cambrian Coast railway in the winter.

2. The Welsh section of the Wrexham–Bidston scheme will be available to Flintshire and Wrexham passholders from 18 May.

3. Gwynedd passholders will be eligible for free travel between Machynlleth-Pwllhelli with some restrictions on busy school trains, between October to April.

4. The Heart of Wales line pilot will be extended for a further year, but only providing free travel between October to April.

5. The Conwy Valley scheme will continue to operate all year.

6. The high level of demand on the Heart of Wales line during the summer months meant that on a small number of occasions, despite additional carriages, trains were reported as too full to board at points along the line. There was a trend of free long-distance tourist travel – in particular to Shrewsbury – whereas the original intention was to help local journeys for social purposes. Pass holders seeking to travel for local travel, and paying customers, were prevented from undertaking their journeys. The scheme has been adjusted as a result of this.

There are some examples of English concessionary bus pass holders being eligable for free travel on local rail services. For example, North East Lincolnshire Council permits free rail travel within its area (i.e. all stops between and including Habrough-Cleethorpes).