Norman Baker in talks with operators over deal for young people

Transport minister Norman Baker is negotiating a deal with bus operators in that could see discounted bus travel offered to England’s one million NEETs, people aged 16-24 who are not in education, employment or training.

Stagecoach chief executive Sir Brian Souter revealed that the talks were taking place when he addressed the annual conference of ATCO, the Association of Transport Co-ordinating Officers, in Birmingham last week. He told delegates that the discussions were evidence that bus companies are willing to do deals with government.

Figures from the Department for Education for the final quarter of 2011 show that there were 958,000 NEETs in England. It is hoped that discounted bus travel will help them to access education, employment and training opportunities.

Norman Baker has also stressed the importance of keeping young people in the bus-using habit in order to break Britain’s culture of car dependancy. Speaking at the annual conference of ALBUM, the Association of Local Bus Managers, in North Lincolnshire in May (PT033), the minister pointed out that research by Passenger Focus which has shown that young people are often less satisfied with bus services than other age groups.

Young people are more likely to consider bus fares to be too expensive. In the West Midlands, for example, the most recent Bus Passenger Survey found that 39% of people aged 16-34 were ‘dissatisfied’ with fares compared to 23% of those aged 35 or over.

Souter also revealed that Stagecoach has put a similar proposal to introduce a special deal for NEETs to a local authority in Scotland.

“We would put in a deeply discounted ticket and share the cost of doing that with them,” he explained. “I don’t know whether it will come to anything or not, but the way forward is to have that type of dialogue.

Pensioners in England, Scotland and Wales are entitled to free bus travel. In England, almost 10 million cards have been issued to date to over 60s. The scheme costs around £900m a year.


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