Transformative bus investments about to begin
Young people leaving the local authority care system in the North East will receive free travel up to the age of 25 under plans being discussed by the North East Joint Transport Committee next week.
Transport leaders will discuss the initiative as part of a number of new investments in the region’s bus network which also includes enhancements to services and a new region-wide public transport website and app, which will provide easy to access information on the region’s bus, Metro and Ferry network.
It is hoped that providing free travel for those young people who have recently left local authority care will help to remove barriers to travel, providing easier access to learning, training and work opportunities. A pilot scheme to offer free public transport for care-experienced young people was introduced by Newcastle and Gateshead Councils for residents of their areas in October 2022, using funding from the NHS’s North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board. The pilot was successful, with an estimated 1,800 bus journeys and 200 Metro journeys being made every week by the 330 care-experienced individuals who have benefitted from the pilot scheme.
If approved by the committee next week (20 June), the scheme will be rolled out across the region in phases through the summer, using money from the region’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) funding. The North East also recently launched a new £1 single bus fare for those 21 and under which has sold over a million tickets in just four weeks of operation.
Cllr Martin Gannon, Chair, North East Joint Transport Committee, said:
“The North East Joint Transport Committee is dedicated to helping young people access enhanced opportunities through good transport links, so I’m pleased we’re looking at introducing free travel for care-experienced people up to the age of 25.
“The pilot programme in Newcastle and Gateshead was successful and clearly demonstrates the many positive impacts of removing barriers to transport for care-experienced individuals, many of whom start living independently at 18, around 5 years younger than the UK average.
“The new initiative will run alongside our new £1 single bus fare for people aged 21 and under which launched just last month. The scheme has been incredibly popular and has sold over a million tickets in just four weeks, so it’s great to see these schemes helping more and more people to choose sustainable, affordable public transport in the North East.
“Alongside investments in fares, we will discuss a budget for bus service enhancements and we also hope to deliver a new region-wide journey-planning website and app which will provide clear public transport information for passengers including timetable information, live bus tracking and details of the cheapest fares available. We know that easy to access information is very helpful for the travelling public on the go, so I hope the new resources will help even more people to get from A to B sustainably.”