The lives of elderly and disabled people in the gay community will be made a little bit easier today after the Concessionary Bus Travel Bill was introduced.
A special bus route stopped outside No10 Downing Street to launch the legislation, carrying a group of older and disabled people.
The guests represented a cross section of the 11 million older and disabled people in England who will be able to take advantage of free off-peak local bus travel in every area of the country, from April 2008.
Ju Gosling Co-chair of Regard, said the gay community has a high proportion of disabled members because of the mental and physical effects of homophobia, such as depression or homophobic assaults.
Prime Minister Tony Blair, said: “I am delighted to welcome people from all over the country to Downing Street this morning who will benefit from the new bus fares scheme. From 2008, disabled people and those 60 and over will be able to travel anywhere in England – not just within their local authority – for free, at off peak times.
“I know many people have pressed for this countrywide scheme – and it was good to have the chance to speak to people today about the difference it will make.”
The bill, unveiled in a speech by the Queen at the state opening of Parliament earlier this month, was welcomed by Karen Shook, co-chair of gay disabled group Regard.
She told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s very good news, but there still has to be a lot done to improve access on buses.”
Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander said: “The extra £250 million the Government is investing in free bus travel will give even more freedom and independence to millions of older and disabled people.”
The new National Concession will address the concerns of bus users who, until now, got free travel only within their own local authority area, or within Greater London for
Londoners Mr Alexander added: “Whether travelling locally, or when visiting other parts of the country, older and disabled people will have even greater access to vital services such as hospitals and shops, and will be able to stay in touch with friends and family”.
The bill also signals plans to extend the scheme throughout the UK.