Young people not in work or education could be in line for free bus travel after leading bus operators pledged to back a plan aimed at helping the under-25s back to work.‘Free’ in the sense, of course, that it’ll cost everyone else.
The proposals come from Greener Journeys – a campaign funded by Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead and Stagecoach. National Express has also agreed to back the scheme.
The costs would be paid from the bus operators' existing revenues and grants rather than new funding, although government help will be needed to design effective identification of eligible passengers.So, there’s another cost. The cost of a government department to set up, administer and monitor whichever scheme they come up with to identify NEETs to the bus companies.
While taxpayers would not directly fund the scheme, the operators are keen to make the point that bus travel is a key engine of growth for the beleaguered economy, after grants for bus service operators were cut in the coalition's spending reviews.Then, surely, they are going to want more paying customers? Not fewer?
A study published on Tuesday by the University of Leeds Institute of Transport Studies found that commuters using buses generate £64bn of economic output in their work, and that 1 in 10 commuters are completely reliant on buses for their jobs.So, you plan to increase the load on the service by packing more non-paying customers on to make the journey even more of a misery than it currently is?
Young people, with limited financial resources and facing prohibitive car insurance premiums, are particularly dependant on buses, with one in two students frequent users.‘Students’, of course, wouldn’t be included in the description ‘NEET’, would they?
And all those dependent on buses for work or study are now going to find themselves squeezed out by those who can now access ‘free’ travel. Because, let’s face it, they aren’t all going to be diligently travelling to job interviews, are they?
They are going to be riding around aimlessly because someone else’s paying and they’ve exhausted the possibilities of the ‘Jeremy Kyle’ show for the day.
Even the people proposing this seem to realise it’s utter tosh:
Mackie said that he believed free travel would be "better targeted" at the under-25s than the older generation "in principle, although the political realities are such that you can't".Well, quite. How is this going to meet EU age discrimination laws?
This seems such a fundamentally ill-thought-out, pointless scheme, I can only wonder at just what it’s meant to distract us all from…