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Transport Minister visits Cornwall to hear about bus improvements and project offering free bus travel for care leavers


Cllr Connor Donnithorne with Transport Minister Richard Holden

The success of a reduced bus fares pilot, the Council’s bus service improvement plan and the results of a pilot project offering care leavers in Cornwall free bus travel were on the agenda for Department for Transport Minister Richard Holden’s visit to Cornwall on Thursday 9 February. 

Mr Holden, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, is visiting Cornwall and travelling by bus from Cornwall Airport Newquay to Truro bus station where he heard first-hand about Cornwall’s successful bus fares pilot which, combined with the government’s £2 flat fare single journey scheme, has encouraged more residents to get back on the bus.  

Buses Minister Richard Holden said: “Cornwall is one of the UK’s most idyllic spots, and it’s only right that local residents and tourists enjoy a modern, efficient and sustainable bus network. 

“That’s why we’ve invested £13.3 million to improve local bus services and a further £23.5 million to help Cornwall Council cap the price of local bus journeys and keep travel affordable.  

“It’s also fantastic to see how the close partnership between Barnardo’s and Carefree has helped drive forward our vision for a more inclusive transport network that care leavers and those who need it most can rely on.” 

Mr Holden heard how the first devolution deal in 2015 paved the way for the Council and bus companies to work together to deliver significant improvements for passengers, including: 

  • 194 new low-emission buses,  
  • electronic ticket machines accepting contactless payments,  
  • bus station and bus stop upgrades,  
  • Real Time Passenger Information displays  
  • the development of a single brand for public transport in Cornwall, Transport for Cornwall. 

There has since been a year-on-year growth in passenger numbers, interrupted only by the global pandemic, boosted by Cornwall’s £23.5m Government-funded Bus Fares Pilot that is helping Cornwall deliver better value bus travel for its residents with fares capped at £5 per day or £20 per week.  Running alongside is the government’s £2 flat fare single bus journey initiative.  The recent award of £13.3m for Cornwall’s Bus Service Improvement Plan will continue the delivery of improved bus services for passengers.  

Connor Donnithorne, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for transport, said: “We are delighted to welcome Richard Holden and discuss with him how our commitment to improve public transport in Cornwall is progressing and the opportunity to be at the forefront of devolution once again with a proposed new Cornwall Devolution Deal.  

“The potential new deal will provide the powers and capacity funding to develop a pipeline of projects to accelerate the delivery of our new Cornwall Transport Plan, including improvements across all parts of the public transport system though a welcomed ability to influence the local rail offer.”  

The Minister also met care leavers at Lys Kernow to hear directly from them how important a pilot project in Cornwall to offer them free bus travel has been.  The new partnership initiative between charities Carefree and Barnardo’s, and bus operators and Cornwall Council, was part of a national ‘Transport for Freedom’ campaign to obtain free transport for care leavers and to give young people a voice at a national level.  

As part of the campaign Barnardo’s ran a pilot project in Cornwall to gauge the impact of free transport on the lives of care leavers. Reported benefits included improved mental health, better access to work, training or study, getting to appointments and reducing isolation. 

Transport Minister Richard Holden with Carefree and Barnardo's representatives

Cllr Barbara Ellenbroek, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for children and families, said: “It is great for Richard Holden to see and hear first-hand about the excellent work that has been going on here in Cornwall to ensure young people leaving the care system have access to affordable travel.  

“One of the priorities that underpins everything we do here at the Council is to make sure Cornwall is a brilliant place to be a child and grow up, and this means making sure care leavers have the same opportunities as everyone else, without being hampered by expensive travel costs. This is why the pilot project with Barnardo’s and Carefree is so important and I'm delighted it’s been such a success.” 

Barnardo’s CEO Lynn Perry MBE said: “With the average cost of a weekly bus pass in the UK now more than £18, getting to work or to a job interview can come at a cost that many young people leaving the care system simply cannot afford. When you are seeking to find your way in life, it can be really frustrating to have your horizons and independence limited by a lack of mobility. 

“Without affordable travel, these young people often struggle to access work, education, healthcare, or any of the freedoms we all enjoy from a change of scene. That’s why we are calling on the Government to support and fund free bus travel for care leavers up to the age of 25. By doing so, we can help make sure care leavers have the best possible chance to build a brighter and positive future.” 

Mari Eggins, CEO of Carefree, said: “Carefree is proud to work in partnership with both Barnardo’s and Cornwall Council, as the Corporate Parent of children in care and care leavers.  It was amazing to undertake the Transport campaign together with young people - we hope that what we piloted in Cornwall can contribute to a national focus on helping care experienced people have good lives.” 

Care leaver Samuel, 18, said: “With the cost of everything going up, and the amount of appointments that you have as a care-experienced young person for things like college and seeing your support worker, doing this without a free bus pass can be really tough.” 

Other feedback from young care leavers involved in the pilot include:  

  • “It helped me be free and helped me find myself again as a person and not just a parent.” 
  • “The bus pass made me feel free, it’s about getting out there. It gave me hope.” 
  • “In care I couldn’t have the relationship that I wanted with my dad and I want to be that network for my son that I didn’t have'.” 

Story posted February 10, 2023

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