Jobseekers across the Eastbourne area have been given a boost with the news that Stagecoach is making its discounted bus travel scheme for the unemployed permanent.
The company launched the country’s first long-term nationwide initiative as a six-month pilot in February 2013, giving thousands of job seekers across the UK a 50 per cent discount on their bus travel to help them find employment.
New figures show jobseekers are making nearly 20,000 discounted bus journeys a month under the scheme, which is funded entirely on a commercial basis by Stagecoach without any public sector support.
Holders of a Jobcentreplus Travel Discount Card qualify for half-price single and return tickets on Stagecoach’s 6,500 buses in the UK outside London.
More than 800,000 people who are out of work and claiming benefits currently qualify for a Jobcentreplus Travel Discount Card.
The boost for jobseekers comes after the latest figures released by the Office of National Statistics earlier this month show that UK unemployment remained unchanged at 7.8 per cent with 2.51 million people without a job.
However, the number of young people who were unemployed rose by 15,000 in the period for April to June 2013, compared to the previous three months. It means the unemployment rate for those aged 16-24 is 21.4 per cent.
Bus travel is the most popular mode of transport used by Britain’s commuters, with 5.2 billion bus journeys in the UK each year.
Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Group’s chief executive, said, “Buses are crucial in connecting people with employment and that is one reason why we have always been focused on making travel affordable.
“Youth unemployment remains a major issue for our country, with one in five 16 to 24-year-olds out of work.
“Tens of thousands of jobseekers have benefitted from our initiative and we hope that making the scheme permanent will help improve the chances of many more young people getting their first job or training place.”
Polegate MP and transport minister Norman Baker welcomed the news and said, “Buses play an important role in boosting economic growth by helping people get to job interviews and into work.
“This is good news and I’m pleased to see Stagecoach supporting job seekers in tough economic times. I encourage other bus operators to do the same.
“Young people have a vital role to play in the future of the bus industry and economic recovery.”