Free bus travel is to be offered to unemployed people in an attempt to help them find work under a new scheme announced on Monday by the country’s biggest bus companies.
About 70% of all bus routes in England, Wales and Scotland will be covered by the initiative, which follows advice from the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, that jobless people should do just that: “Get on the bus”.
David Miliband highlighted the problem of expensive bus fares in his report this year on youth unemployment, calling transport a “major problem” for some.
The scheme is being launched by the biggest bus companies in Britain, Arriva, First, Go-Ahead, National Express and Stagecoach, and a handful of local operators. It is estimated it could help up to 800,000 jobless people in the regions where they operate.
Free travel, using the existing Jobcentre Plus travel card giving 50% off train travel for people unemployed for more than three months, will begin in January and could be extended if there is good feedback.
Those eligible include people claiming jobseeker’s allowance, incapacity benefit, employment and support allowance or income support.
Neil Couling, work services director at the Department for Work and Pensions, said: “This scheme is a really positive way to start the new year for those looking for work, and I am pleased that so many people will benefit.”
The initiative was also welcomed by the transport minister Norman Baker. “This move will benefit the industry as well as jobseekers, as young people are not only a key section of the market – they are the future of the local bus industry,” he said.
The local bus operators taking part are Trent Barton, Kinchbus, Blackpool Transport, Cardiff Bus and Network Warrington.
Duncan Smith’s advice echoed the now infamous urgings of Tory Norman Tebbit, who in the 1970s told people to “get on their bikes” and find work.