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Stormont meets £9.5m cost of free OAP travel

By Michael McHugh

Almost £10 million has been allocated to provide free public transport for the elderly in Northern Ireland next year, the Regional Development Minister said.

Funding to support bus and train travel for people aged over 60 had been under threat as Stormont struggled to balance its books.

But Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has confirmed the cash will be found from within the budget.

DRD Minister Danny Kennedy said: "I welcome the confirmation that £9.5m towards the cost of the Northern Ireland concessionary fares scheme has been baselined within my department's budget for next year.

"I have no plans to change the current scheme, but it is important to note that the £9.5m only represents costs incurred this year and there are likely to be further increased costs next year, not provided for in the baseline.

"It is also important to recognise that the success of the Concessionary Fares Scheme depends on related subsidies to support the bus and rail network of services.

"The draft budget for my department will see that subsidy materially reduced to Translink and other bus operators next year."

He said he had raised this issue with Mr Hamilton and hoped the Executive see the link between the issues in deciding on future budget allocations.

The concessionary travel scheme has been funded by the public purse and operated by Translink since 2008.

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