Thursday, 27 August 2009

After 12 months, discussions start on free bus passes for injured soldiers

The MoD's Service Personnel Command Paper published in July 2008 expressed a commitment to introduce concessionary bus travel for injured service personnel in Great Britain - it was already operating in N. Ireland).

Having given the highly complex bus pass proposal some serious thought, bureaucrats at the MoD estimated that it would take them nearly three years to get the scheme off the ground. That's right: three years. Unbelievable, isn't it?

12 months down the line and something has started to happen, at least in Wales; the Welsh Assembly has agreed to begin negotiations with the MoD to extend their bus pass scheme to include injured soldiers.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the bureaucrats at the MoD have now to determine what type of injury will qualify for a free bus pass. These deliberations will take them at least another 18 months and therefore the Welsh Assembly is saying: "We hope to be in a position to complete this change by April 2011".

The Royal British Legion, almost with an audible sigh, say ".. it is not anything new as it was a commitment under the command paper issued in July, 2008"

This is the item in the Command Paper:
"2.29 Concessionary Bus Travel. By 1 April 2011, the statutory bus concession in England will be extended to include Service personnel and veterans under the age of 60, who were seriously injured in service and who are resident in England. A similar scheme already exists in Northern Ireland. Scottish Ministers will consider by April 2009 how to take forward this proposal as part of the three year review currently being carried out on the Scotland-wide Free Bus Scheme for Older and Disabled People. The Welsh Assembly Government is also undertaking a review of its concessionary fares scheme and this will include plans to extend eligibility to concessionary bus travel for Service personnel and veterans who were seriously injured in service."

Whenever I go on a bus these days, the only people travelling seem to be ones with bus passes. It surely can't be that difficult to extend this to include all those covered by the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.

BBC: Free bus passes for forces plan
MoD: Service Personnel Command Paper 2008