PENSIONERS are urging Swindon Council to allow them free bus travel before 9.30am.

At the moment, under the concessionary bus pass scheme pensioners and disabled people can have free off-peak travel on buses up and down the country.

But some pensioners want Swindon Council to take the lead of councils such as Bath, where the scheme has been extended to start at 9am instead of 9.30am.

Les White, from Rodbourne Cheney, said: “I don’t see why they can’t extend the scheme to 9am – they can do it in places like Bath, so why can’t it be done here?

“It’s ridiculous that buses are going past half empty and there are people waiting to get on them.

“I have spoken to the managing director of Thamesdown Transport and he has said that as far as he’s concerned it is okay for us to use our bus passes on a bus a few minutes before 9.30am, but there are still drivers who refuse to let us on at 9.29am.

“As chairman of the Rodbourne Cheney Residents’ Association I have written to the council to tell them we think it’s a good idea to extend the scheme to 9am.”

Joyce Bishop, also from Rodbourne Cheney agreed, saying: “The problem is that a lot of people have appointments at doctors or hospitals and need to take the bus before 9am to make it.

“I often go to East Sussex but I have to pay for the first part of the journey or I wouldn’t get there in time. This is being done in other councils, so I don’t see why we should be penalised.”

Council leader Rod Bluh said the council had had research carried out which indicated the scheme would cost around £230,000 to implement.

He said: “It would be irresponsible in the current economic climate to spend taxpayers money on a scheme which would have a very minor effect. This is a national scheme and it should be paid for nationally.

“People are not being prevented from using their bus passes before 9.30am it’s just that they would have to pay, as they did before.”

North Swindon MP, Michael Wills said: “I am disappointed that Rod Bluh has reneged on the promise he gave me 18 months ago to do a survey on this issue.

“I don’t think my constituents will be reassured by his ‘research’ which gives an apparently arbitrary figure for what this might cost.

“Despite all my letters to him on this issue he has never had the consideration to share with me this “research”.

“I’m very surprised that the council has treated the concerns of these pensioners with such contempt.

“In these difficult economic times I am not asking the council to spend more money but only to conduct a survey to see whether passengers can get what they are asking for without any extra burden on the taxpayer.”