FND Hope UK calls upon Scottish Government to examine disparity in impairment entitled to Edinburgh Tram free travel concession.
Since 2006 disabled people in Scotland have been able to travel free on buses under the National Concessionary Travel Scheme for Older and Disabled People. This concession does not apply to the Edinburgh Tram. However, people who are blind or have a visual impairment can travel for free on the Tram. FND Hope UK (this link will take you away from our website), which seeks to promote awareness, support affected individuals, and advance research for the prevention, treatment and recovery of Functional Neurological Disorder (“FND”), have called for this “inexplicable disparity” to be addressed.
Edinburgh Trams Ltd, which operates the Tram and is fully owned by the City of Edinburgh Council, could not explain why only visual disability is offered this concession. Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, in response to a query from Iain Gray, MSP, concerning this disparity, commented that free travel on buses and trains for those with a visual impairment was brought into operation in 1999. It continues as a voluntary partnership between local authorities and transport operators. He stated that “[i]t is entirely for local authorities to decide whether to provide concessionary travel on non-bus modes for their residents”.
However, FND Hope believe this needs to be set in the context of overall spending on the Tram to date. As at November 2018, the Scottish Government has spent £9.6M on the Edinburgh Tram Public Inquiry. This is in addition to the £500M contributed to the Tram during its construction. The City of Edinburgh Council, whose residents with any disability can travel on the Tram for free, has also set aside £2.4M to compensate local businesses affected by any extension to the Tram. In financial year 2017/2018 it cost the City of Edinburgh Council £599K to pay for their residents to use the Tram for free.
The City of Edinburgh Council, like all other local authorities, receives funding from the Scottish Government. However, residents of local authorities other than City of Edinburgh, who are disabled by conditions other than blindness/visual impairment, cannot travel for free on the Tram. The Scottish Government, Edinburgh Trams Ltd, the City of Edinburgh Council and CoSLA could not answer why blindness/visual impairment is the only disability entitled to free travel on the Tram regardless of which local authority the person resides in.
Iain Gray, MSP, has said “The fact that we provide concessionary travel for the visually impaired but not for other disabilities just makes no sense to me. It really is not good enough for the Minister to just pass the blame on to councils or councils to point to a decision taken 20 years ago. Someone needs to take some responsibility and get this sorted”.