Travelcard falls foul of rail privatisation

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The Independent Online
A travelcard enabling people on the South Coast to use train and bus services without having to buy tickets for every journey is to be scrapped as a result of rail privatisation.

More than 120,000 people in Brighton and surrounding area currently use the scheme which allows them access to both local train and bus services. Over pounds 1.5m in revenue was raised by local bus companies from the Travelcard scheme, which also cuts the cost of the intensive use of public transport.

The Brighton travelcard was one of the first to be introduced in Britain and its demise suggests that many other similar schemes around the country could now be in jeopardy.

After 17 years of co-operation between the local bus companies and British Rail, Network SouthCentral, the region's train company, has announced its intention to withdraw unilaterally from the scheme, claiming it is not cost effective. The bus firms say they will not only lose revenue but, as more passengers will have to buy tickets from one-person operated buses, there will be more traffic delays.

In a letter to Brighton council, Network SouthCentral's business manager, Harinder Dhesi, said: "Network SouthCentral have made it clear that ... the percentage shares offered to us were no longer commercially realistic." The Travelcard will be withdrawn from 1 October unless Brighton council can obtain government support.

Steve Bassam, leader of the Labour-controlled council, said: "This seems to fly in the face of attempts to develop a coherent local transport strategy which enables people to make best use of public transport."