Waspi women could still benefit from bus pass under new proposals
Women left with a gap in their state pension could still catch the bus for less under new a concessionary travel scheme.
Durham County Council’s cabinet is recommended to approve the scheme to enable women born between December 1953 and November 5, 1954, who have not already reached state pension age (SPA), to take advantage of free travel and reduced fares on bus services.
Changes to the statutory SPA mean women wait longer for their pension, with approximately 3,000 women affected across County Durham.
As well as the delays to their income, those affected miss out on benefits such as concessionary bus passes.
The campaign Women against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) is one of a number of groups lobbying on the issue.
Campaigners agree with the equalisation of the SPA but argue the way it was implemented was unfair, giving women little time to make alternative plans.
The council proposes to introduce a discretionary travel scheme to help alleviate some of their financial hardship.
It would work in a similar way to the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme, which provides free off-peak local bus travel between 9.30am and 11pm Monday to Friday and all day at weekends and public holidays.
In addition to this, the council provides pass holders with free bus travel between 11pm and midnight Monday to Friday, and 50p single fares for travel before 9.30am.
The proposed scheme would allow similar benefits but because it would be locally implemented, it would only be eligible for journeys starting and ending in County Durham.
It has already been agreed by the main bus operators and would be introduced on March 1 if cabinet agrees the scheme at on January 15.
Councillor Carl Marshall, cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We know that changes to the state pension age, implemented by Government, have left some women in County Durham in financial hardship.
“This is through no fault of their own but because of a lack of notice that money they had been expecting to receive at a certain time would be delayed.
“By introducing a concessionary bus travel scheme, we hope to reduce some of the financial pressure this has resulted in.”