Norfolk pensioners don't have new bus passes

Sarah Brealey Every pensioner in Norfolk was still waiting for their new bus pass last night on the day that free travel nationwide came into force yesterday.

Sarah Brealey

Every pensioner in Norfolk was still waiting for their new bus pass last night on the day that free travel nationwide came into force yesterday.

Delays at the company which is producing all of Norfolk's bus passes and many for Suffolk residents have meant that more than 100,000 people locally are still waiting. Most of the new passes will arrive at the end of this week or later.

Yesterday saw the first day of free bus travel across England, rather than just locally, for over-60s and the disabled after 9.30am. The region's major bus operators have agreed to accept the old bus passes, as long as they have not expired. And those wishing to travel nationally can go to council offices to get a special extra pass.

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Hampshire-based Euclid, which specialises in producing identity cards, is handling 1.5m cards out of the 11m national total, including all those for Norfolk residents.

Euclid has blamed the problems with new software, which delayed the production of the first cards, and then concerns which were raised over mailing out the new cards. The latest delays have been caused because a specialist sub-contractor, which usually posts out credit cards, was making too many mistakes, so a slower process of mailing was introduced - which means only 90,000 a day can be posted and it would take16 days to send them all out.

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Joe Liggett, senior leisure manager at Breckland, said Breckland has 14,300 pass holders and none have received theirs. Mr Liggett said Euclid had indicated they should all be out with pensioners within 10 days.

“We are asking people to please be patient. As a local authority we did everything we could to make sure the cards were available.”

All 20,000 people who applied for passes in King's Lynn and West Norfolk are still waiting, and have been told to expect them at the end of this week or early next week. Nor have any of the 14,000 applicants in Yarmouth, but they are expected at the end of this week.

One of those waiting is Roland Terry, 61, of Whinburgh, near Dereham, who first applied for his pass in November. He said: “It really isn't very clever that none have been sent out. The whole thing is a shambles and today is an appropriate day, being April 1.”

Also furious is Elizabeth Wolfe, from Diss, who plans to use the Freedom of Information Act to find out what went wrong. She wrote to South Norfolk chief executive Geoff Rivers and her MP Richard Bacon, saying: “What I find hard to understand is why these errors occurred.”

The new cards are “smart-cards” with a photograph and memory chip built into them, unlike the old cards, which were just photocards. The over-60s have been entitled to half price local bus travel since 2000, which became free in 2006.

A story in yesterday's EDP referred to half price train travel being introduced for pensioners, which is incorrect. We apologise for any confusion caused.

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