Bu Jamie Waller, Local Democracy Reporter
Dozens of people rallied against the potential end of free tram travel for the elderly and disabled in Nottinghamshire.
The county council is holding a consultation on whether or not to end the scheme, which costs £900,000 per year.
People over the age of 65 or who have disabilities get free tram travel between 9.30am and 11pm on weekdays and all day on weekends and bank holidays.
Options the council is considering include half-fare payments, free travel for only disabled concessionary pass holders and their companions, and no changes.
Placards saying ‘Save Free Tram Travel in Notts’ were held up by protesters outside a full council meeting on Thursday (December 7),
Around 50 members of the National Pensioners Convention, GMB, Unison, tram drivers and members of the public joined local councillors outside the county hall.
Councillor Greg Marshall (Lab), deputy leader of Broxtowe Borough Council, said: “It would be terrible to lose this for the elderly and the disabled.
“There’s evidence of how beneficial it is for their health and wellbeing to be able to get out, interact and attend medical appointments easily. Trams are vital to that.
“We all know someone that this would effect. I’ve been encouraging everyone to have their say – not just concession pass holders – and hopefully any changes will be rejected.”
Nottinghamshire County Council says it has a projected budget shortfall of £8.7m for 2024/25, and wants to hear whether changes should be made to reduce costs.
From May, the devolved Combined County Authority will assume responsibility for funding public transport.
An elected mayor for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire will be able to take major decisions on the region’s funding.
That’s part of a devolution deal to help the region gain greater controls along with more funding from Government.
County council leader Councillor Ben Bradley, the Conservative Mayoral candidate, said: “We’re getting a new Mayoral Combined Authority, which will be responsible for public transport.
“It will come with £1.5bn of specific transport funding – eventually £350m+ a year. That’s where the tram concessions funding should come from in the future, in my view.
“The [county] council will go through its process. As Council Leader, we have to have a process and we have to consult residents on any change.
“But as a Mayoral Candidate I am very clear indeed that this should continue, and I will fund it as Mayor.”
The consultation will be open until January 7.