Fresh calls for free off-peak bus travel to Nottinghamshire veterans

Bus services have struggled to recover following the pandemic.
By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

The idea of offering free off-peak public transport to military veterans across Nottinghamshire will be discussed again in the summer.

Nottinghamshire County Council approved plans in January 2022 to assess whether the scheme could be rolled out.

However, no progress has since been made and the authority has also overhauled the way it makes decisions.

The previous transport and environment committee, which was in place until last year, approved a recommendation to investigate the veteran scheme.

But a change from the committee to cabinet style of governance took place last spring and the council has not yet carried out the body of work.

Now some councillors have reignited the calls and asked for the assessment to be carried out by the Conservative administration.

If successful, the bid could mirror a similar scheme in London giving former soldiers and veterans access to an Oyster card with free access to transport.

This would allow the veterans to travel on buses across the county free of charge in thanks for their service.

A meeting of the council’s place select committee on Wednesday (March 15) approved plans for a discussion over the scheme to relaunch.

This committee scrutinises the actions of the administration and can recommend future policy decisions for cabinet members to explore.

Councillor Tom Hollis (Ash Ind), the committee’s vice-chairman, ignited calls for the scheme and said: “The [2022 transport and environment] committee asked for the feasibility study to be undertaken.

“The executive decision was taken [by that committee] for it to be carried out.

“This hasn’t taken place yet and the power has been handed over to the cabinet member [Cllr Neil Clarke (Con)].

“What we’re asking for is that a decision, which has already been taken, be reported back to this committee.

“Of course, we’re also asking for the feasibility study into free off-peak travel for veterans.”

The meeting was told the authority will be able to draw up a report on undertaking the feasibility study.

This will be brought back to the next meeting of the place select committee on July 5.

Derek Higton, interim corporate director for place, told Wednesday’s meeting: “We can [report] back to the next meeting of the committee on the potential implementation of concessionary arrangements for veterans.

“It would be helpful, in that respect, to get access to details of the London scheme so we can follow up and report back on it.”

The recommendation was approved with nine votes in favour and one abstention.

Cllr Nigen Moxon (Con), chairman of the place select committee, said: “I don’t think we’re in a position to do anything more.

“As this committee, [we can] put this recommendation forward for it to be undertaken and done and for a report to be brought back to this committee.”

Speaking in the transport and environment committee in January last year, Gary Wood, the authority’s head of highways, said the council would have to cover costs for the scheme.

He said: “[Costs for] the proposition around a pass for residents who have been members of the armed forces previously would have to be picked up by Nottinghamshire County Council.

“It would be a discretionary element for the county council to consider.”

Cllr Neil Clarke (Con), cabinet member for transport and environment, was chairman of the former committee at the time and said in January 2022: “It’s something I think we could ask officers to look at.”

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