Social Democratic and Labour Party Leader Colum Eastwood MP has said that accessible public transport should be expanded, not restricted.
He was speaking after the launch of a consultation on the Northern Ireland Concessionary Fares Scheme by the Department for Infrastructure.
Mr Eastwood encouraged people across the North to respond to the survey and have their say.
Foyle MP Mr Eastwood said:
"I have strong concerns with the changes being proposed by the department to the current scheme, especially changes which will detrimentally impact those who need it and use it most. Changing the age of eligibility or altering the criteria could result in many older citizens and disabled people losing access to affordable public transport. This would severely impact their ability to maintain independence, engage in social activities, and access necessary services.
“In Derry and across the North this scheme is crucial in promoting social inclusion, connecting individuals with their communities and reducing isolation. By limiting eligibility or increasing costs, changes to this scheme risk excluding vulnerable members of society.
“I encourage everyone to have their say on this vital consultation process and help shape the Concessionary Fares Scheme to suit those who need it and use it regularly. Accessible public transport is vital for everyone, any changes that will adversely affect people in need must be resisted.”
SDLP Infrastructure Spokesperson Mark H Durkan said:
“I’m acutely aware of the precarious budget position facing the department but I fear that their proposals to ‘cut the fat’ as it where, will instead work against the key aim of the scheme. The links between social exclusion and poverty are well established. Restricting access to public transport for older people in low-income communities right across the North will have a far-reaching detrimental impact.
“At a time when we are dealing with a climate crisis that threatens our very way of life we need to be encouraging more people to use public transport and leave their cars at home, these proposals fly in the face of that aim and would encourage older people to continue using personal vehicles when going about their lives.”