Free bus pass age will not rise until 2022, minister says
Plans to the increase the eligibility age for the concessionary bus pass will not be implemented until April 2022, the Welsh Government has confirmed.
Ministers want to gradually raise the age that people are eligible for the pass from 60 to state pension age.
Transport minister Ken Skates said plans mean anyone who reaches 60 before April 2022 will not be affected.
Concerns have been expressed about the impact of the policy on the most vulnerable.
Ministers are concerned about the rising cost of the pass, with 880,000 people expected to be eligible by 2021.
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In the Senedd on Tuesday Mr Skates said: "Any person who holds a concessionary pass at the time the changes to the law are made will not lose their entitlement to that pass in any circumstances".
It is the first time the government has stated when the changes would come into effect. According to a recent consultation, pass-holders represent about 47% of bus journeys in Wales.
The changes will need to be introduced through new legislation.
The minister said the number of people paying to use buses needed to rise.
"That's why we're looking at a broad vision of improving the attractiveness of travelling by bus," he said.
"We're looking at fare systems that currently operate in different parts of the world, which I think are very interesting, in order to make bus travel more affordable to the individual".
Meanwhile Mr Skates told AMs that the website handling a renewal of the bus pass scheme has been improved after it crashed in September following a large number of applications.
All bus pass holders need to renew their pass before 31 December. Mr Skates told AMs that there had been around 210,000 applications on the website.
Figures showed there were about 730,000 passes in circulation at the end of 2018.
Mr Skates said: "Due to the huge surge in demand on the first couple of days, the website was taken off line and during this time significantly more capacity was built and extensive capacity testing took place, in partnership with Age Cymru and the Older People's Commissioner for Wales.
"Paper applications were available to download from the Transport for Wales website, by post on request, via the help line and available for local authorities."