Xcape card to be saved

SUFFOLK'S discount travel and shopping card for children and teenagers has been reprieved, and could become the pilot scheme under the Government's "youth matters" initiative.

By Graham Dines

SUFFOLK'S discount travel and shopping card for children and teenagers has been reprieved, and could become the pilot scheme under the Government's "youth matters" initiative.

The card had been under threat following a change of political control of the county council, with the new Tory administration concerned over the open ended financial commitment.

In the first quarter of the current financial year, council taxpayers paid out £113,000 to subsidise youngsters' journeys.


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At the same time, a legal challenge over the name brand Xcape means £143,000 is having to be spent to issue new cards under a different name.

However, next week's meeting of the county's ruling Cabinet is being recommended to continue with the scheme.

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Demand has exceeded expectations, with 48,020 youngsters applying for the card instead of the 30,000 anticipated.

In the 16 plus age group, 14,555 cards have been issues and 33,465 in the 5-16 group.

Councillors will be told that the take up in rural areas has been high - around 30% of discounted journeys take place in Ipswich and 70% in the other six districts in the county.

Benefits of the card include cut-price bus tickets on services of Ipswich Buses and First Eastern Counties and off-peak half price travel on railway services in the county.

Seven retailers have joined the scheme, enabling cardholders to obtain discounts on high street purchases.

In a report, the Director of Environment and Transport Lucy Robinson says the Suffolk youth card is being looked at by neighbouring councils who are keen to develop their own schemes.

She says the success of the card - introduced just months before the county council elections - put Suffolk in an excellent position to become one of the national pilots for the so-called opportunity card proposed in the Government's Green Paper Youth Matters.

"This would widen the scope of the existing card and the active involvement of young people in developing a range of 'things to do and places to go' which would be made more accessible by a discount card," said Mrs Robinson.

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