By a County Press reporter

Friday, February 24, 2006


By Suzanne Pert

UNDER-19s were rejoicing this week at the news that public transport is about to get a lot cheaper.

Years of pressure from Island youngsters paid off with the announcement that bus and train fares would be reduced to a flat fare of just 50p per journey.

Unlike the existing Youth Mover ticket, the new deal will apply at any time of day and during school holidays.

The scheme will come into effect from April 1 and any young people wishing to participate should fill in a form, which will be available through schools soon.

Much of the cost of the concession announced by IW Council leader Cllr Andy Sutton will be covered by cutting administration costs for the more complicated Youth Mover scheme.

The move, which comes after years of complaints from young people over the high cost of public transport, follows talks between the council, Southern Vectis, train company IslandLine and the authority's own WightBus.

Island Youth MP Charlotte Cooke said: "Frankly I am astonished. We thought they would introduce a £1 subsidised flat fare to shut us up because we have been campaigning for this since the youth council started, but this is even better.

"Now I can afford it I will be using the buses a lot more."

Tickets will be available to people up to the age of 19 and for the academic year during which they become 19.

The Youth Mover ticket, which cost £15 a year or £5 a term, could not be used before 9.30am, or in school holidays. It entitled users to half price fares.

The new concession can be used to get to and from school, thus allowing some students a greater choice in where they go to school.

Paul Magee, chairman of the IW Youth Council, was delighted with the news.

"I think it is absolutely fantastic. There will be a lot more commuting by people living in the small towns and villages on the Island," said Paul, a pupil at Carisbrooke High School.

He said previously anyone over 14 had to pay adult fare, meaning a return trip from Newport to Freshwater would cost £8.

"With bus prices that high there was no customer loyalty but we will all be using the buses and trains a lot more now that the prices are lower," said Mr Magee.

Cllr Ian Ward, IW Council Cabinet member for environment, transport and planning, said: "Southern Vectis came to us to talk about the Youth Mover ticket and said they could do us a better deal. We negotiated and now we have a brilliant outcome.

"We have government targets to get people on buses and out of cars so every person we get on the buses is great for the IW Council, good for young people and for the Island."

Sandown High School pupil Geoffrey Andrews, 17, said: "I will be more encouraged to go on the buses now they are a lot more affordable. A trip between Newport and Ryde used to cost a lot so I only used to get on a bus about once a month. I reckon I will probably use them at least every week now."

Youth council member Amber Wilcox, 15, of Cowes High School, said: "We have been waiting for this for quite a while. I reckon so many more people will use the buses now, I certainly will. I am glad people are willing to listen."

Cllr Sutton said: "I am absolutely ecstatic. This is a youth council which has now got teeth and is listened to.

"This is not just an opportunity for young people but parents who have not previously been able to send their children to the schools they want them to go to because of the cost.

"The real difference here is that I think we are the first in the country to do something like this."

Cabinet secretary Cllr Alan Wells said: "Youths have been calling for this and we have responded to it. The Youth Mover was absolutely hopeless, it couldn't even be used to get to school."

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