Disabled people, trade unionists and Berkshire Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) will be outside Reading Borough Council (RBC) civic offices on Bridge Street on Monday 11 June at 6pm to protest council proposals to reduce concessionary bus services for disabled people.
The council’s concessionary bus pass proposals are due for implementation on April 2019 and would mean that:
- disabled pass holders could no longer travel for free on buses in Reading before 9.30am or after 11pm on weekdays,
- people accompanying disabled travellers who cannot travel alone could no longer travel for free within Reading,
- Readibus dial-a-ride services would no longer be free for disabled travellers.
In effect, the council would be replacing Reading’s current concessionary bus pass scheme for disabled people with the England National Concessionary Travel Scheme, which only offers free off-peak local bus travel to eligible older and disabled people from 9.30am to 11:00pm on any weekday and at any time on weekends and bank holidays.
“As if it weren’t bad enough that almost every change to parking, entering the town centre and road design has made it a serious challenge to drive into Reading, now the council wants to remove travel concessions for those using buses,” said Merry Cross from Berkshire DPAC.
Berkshire DPAC says that there are about 6000 disabled people in Reading who depend on concessionary bus fares, for both themselves as well as the people who assist them. They add that some people with physical impairments may not able to afford to go to hospital appointments if they have to pay for regular bus trips.
“I’m a wheelchair user and I can’t use a bus on my own – I always need someone to push me. In effect they are my arms and legs,” said Reading bus user Simone Illger. “They’d have no reason to be on the bus with me if I didn’t need their assistance. I’d love to be able to travel independently – which is something most people take for granted. It’s a shame that the valuable role of unpaid carers goes unrecognised and once again disabled people are penalised for needing support to live a full and independent life.”