A MAJOR bus operator has hit out at the decision to impose a charge on pensioner’s travel passes.

This week, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) approved proposals to charge older people £10 a year for previously free train and tram passes.

Transport bosses involved in the decision have said that the funds would be used to help implement an overhaul of the bus network, which could fall into public hands through a system of franchising.

However, Stagecoach, which runs services across Greater Manchester, says the charges, agreed on by mayor Andy Burnham, should “leave the region’s taxpayers extremely worried”.

A spokesman for the company said: “It is the start of a far bigger tax bill that will land on the doormats of Greater Manchester residents to fund the mayor’s proposed plans to take buses into public ownership.

“Motorists, cyclists and even those who walk to work will pay a huge price for the mayor’s plans - even if they don’t use buses.”

Stagecoach - along with other Greater Manchester bus operators - has already presented its own plan for the future of transport in the form of a £100m document. But, the company says the ‘OneBus’ proposals are not being given consideration.

They said: “What makes this even more frustrating for local people is that these taxes are completely unnecessary. For six months, the mayor and his office have had on their desks a £100m blueprint developed by bus operators to deliver better and more integrated public transport in Greater Manchester.

"Delivered through a partnership approach, it would ensure quick and extensive improvements at no expense to the taxpayer."

The GMCA says its decision to enforce a £10 charge will "improve consistency" with the newly introduced 16-18 travel pass and will not impact on free bus passes for pensioners or disabled people.

A spokesman for the authority said: “Several different concessionary travel schemes currently operate in Greater Manchester, offering free or discounted travel options on buses, trams and trains for older people, younger people and people with disabilities.

“The change to concessionary travel arrangements for older people will improve consistency with the other schemes and ensure fairness across all age groups.

“All older people will still benefit from free off-peak bus travel after 9:30am across Greater Manchester regardless and the fee will only apply to those people who want to add, or ‘opt in’ to off-peak tram and rail services in Greater Manchester.

“The £10 fee will not apply to people who wish to just use off-peak bus services and disabled people will not be affected by the change.

“Any monies generated from this change will be ring fenced for investment in transport services, including in particular the bus network, as well as helping to support local concessionary schemes.”