Those in receipt of the current ‘green bus passes’ in Wrexham are being asked to renew their cards before they expire at the end of the year.
The Concessionary Travel Passes, which are available to residents over the age of 60 or those who have a qualifying disability in Wales, allow free travel on all registered local bus services and those that start or finish their journey in Wales.
The scheme was introduced by the Welsh Government back in 2009, with a lifespan of 10 years encoded into each pass. This means that all current cards are due to expire on December 31st 2019 as they will no longer be recognised by electric readers on buses.
It is thought that there are in excess of 750,000 cards in circulation across Wales.
Transport for Wales (TfW), which is overseeing the renewal process, is now urging residents to re-apply for their new-style card “in plenty of time before the end of the year to ensure they can continue to receive the benefits of concessionary travel”,
TfW say that “the new-style cards offer the same free travel rights and benefits as the current cards” and are designed so that they can work as part of an integrated travel network in the future.”
Previously new applications or replacement of lost/damaged cards are handled through the Council’s Contact Centre. However replacements or new applications will now need to be made through the online portal on the TfW website.
Over the last week there has been concern and confusion over the ‘deadline’ with it unclear if today was to be the cut off point for new applications, rather than reality that it is the start of the three month window.
This morning at 10:30am the new system to apply for a new card went live, however the TfW site had been suffering technical issues and displaying the below unhelpful message (something that has happened before) all morning.
TfW have blamed their website providers for the message shown on their own website.
One person has explained how they finally got on the website and managed to start filling in the form, only to have the site issues surface and lose their date – twice.
Others have reported issues with the phone line method offered by TfW, with it ‘not accepting calls at this time’ due to ‘internal problems’, presumably the volume of calls.
Despite the obvious high demand for factual information and use of the application system, actual details and communications have been thin on the ground.
Locally we have not been able to get any information from Wrexham Council, and today it took until late morning before contact was possible with TfW. Local councillors had been provided with information ahead of the official launch time, and with similar information circulating around Wales it appears TfW’s systems could not cope with demand.
Previously TfW have said they were “working with all Welsh local councils and Welsh Government to roll out new-style Concessionary Travel Cards by the end of December 2019″ , however with the now traditional terrible communications no detail was available locally, so we asked Flintshire and Wrexham councils what communications they have had to pass onwards and outwards to the public, and why information had not been circulated.
Cllr David A Bithell, lead member for environment and transport, told us: “We were specifically asked by Transport for Wales not to issue any information or advice to residents as they wanted to manage demand via a phased approach for card renewal.
“However, we have issued advice to all local members and will be advising Community Councils of the renewal process.
“We will be displaying posters in Contact Wrexham, Libraries and the bus station as per the guidelines received from TfW.
“We recognise this is an important matter for those who need to renew their cards and our Contact Wrexham staff are fully briefed on the approach TfW are taking and are able to advise residents on how to apply via their website.”
TfW have told us today is just the start of the process, and details will be provided at some point in the future. We will share that with readers as and when we have it.
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