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Free bus pass row erupts in Basildon
2:00pm Tuesday 15th January 2013 in Local News
A MAN looking to step onto the employment ladder has slammed a town’s bus service after having a nightmare trying to use his free pass.
Last month, First Buses, which runs services in Basildon, announced it was taking part in the Bus for Jobs initiative, which gives jobless people a free pass throughout January, but Michael Smith, 38, has said he has been refused entry on vehicles while other drivers have told him he is only entitled to a half price fare.
Bosses at the bus service say they are investigating as to whether their staff need an extra briefing on the scheme.
Mr Smith, of Pertoria Avenue, Noak Bridge, said: “It was First’s idea to take part in the scheme but most of the time I’ve been wondering what the point of the pass is.
“Drivers have told me they have never heard of it, and it means I’ve had to walk for two hours into the town centre to get to the jobcentre and other places.
“I’ve complained five times in Basildon and I’ve gone to the head office in Norwich too.
“It’s not right and their drivers should at least know about the scheme. I hope any other people haven’t had any problems.”
The Bus for Jobs initiative, which has been rolled out in other parts of the country, is for people over 18 who have been out of work for between three months and a year.
The scheme, which gives people free travel throughout January, was designed to make it more accessible for people to attend interviews and Jobcentre sessions.
But when Mr Smith has showed his discount card, Basildon drivers have said that they do not know anything about the initiative, refusing him entry and leaving him stranded.
First Buses said it is investigating and that all drivers were briefed on the scheme before it was rolled out at the beginning of the month.
A First Buses spokesman said: Whilst drivers and staff are aware of the scheme, we are looking into the complaint to establish if anyone requires refresher training.
“All drivers and staff were trained in advance of the launch of the 'Bus For Jobs' scheme, which began on January 1.
“Staff notices and information packs were distributed in December, and are still being displayed in all depot's so that staff are fully aware of the initiative.”
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