More than 1,400 sign petition over Norfolk bus fares
More than 1,400 people have backed a call for Norfolk to get back money it misses out on because the government does not give enough money to fund free bus travel for pass holders.
Norfolk County Council says the money the government gives the authority to reimburse bus companies for concessionary bus travel for eligible older and disabled people, leaves them �4.5m out of pocket.
Councillors have warned that shortfall is heaping pressure on maintaining rural bus services and last week launched a Fair Fares campaign urging the government to cover the cost.
Petitions are available online and on many Norfolk buses and councillors will take to the streets in the weeks ahead to drum up more signatures.
County Council leader Derrick Murphy described the campaign as 'crucial' for Norfolk and has written to English councils suffering under the current scheme asking them to support it.
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Mr Murphy said: 'With just over a week of the campaign gone, we are off to a very strong start, but we need to keep the petition forms coming in from across Norfolk and beyond so that we are able to send as strong a message as possible to government about the unfairness of the system.
'You have seen last week how our staff have worked to find savings of �500,000 in the public transport budget. But we are under extreme pressure to find further savings and a �4.5m shortfall in funding for the concessionary bus scheme is something we simply can't afford.
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'This is a crucial issue for Norfolk and I hope as many people as possible will get involved. With rural bus services under threat, at its most extreme, the reality is we could end up with people having a bus pass but no service to travel on.'
Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, who has thrown his support behind the scheme, will be at the town's bus station tomorrow between 5pm and 6pm collecting signatures with county councillors including Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation.
People can also sign the petition at a number of roadshows where the council's plans to make �500,000 of savings in rural transport services will come under the spotlight.
Roadshows will be held from 11am to 2pm today at Great Yarmouth Market Place, at The Forum in Norwich next Wednesday (October 12), at King's Lynn's Tuesday Market Place on Tuesday, October 18 and at South Norfolk House in Long Stratton on Wednesday, October 19.
About 200 people signed the petition on Tuesday when they attended a consultation event at Cromer bus station.
The Norfolk Association of Local Councils (NALC) is also backing the campaign and will be collecting signatures at forthcoming events.
The petition is also available online at www.norfolk.gov.uk