Passes for companions of disabled people that were set to be cut in Reading have been saved.

Protestors from Berkshire Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have been protesting cuts to free bus travel since proposed changes were announced in May 2018.

DPAC and Reclaim Reading protestors braved the cold last night to put pressure on the council.

Merry Cross, DPAC Berkshire chairman, said: “The council have recognised that companion passes are essential for some disabled people to access buses. We are glad they have decided not to cut this.

“However, they have not made any decision on the cuts that affect the majority of disabled and elderly people. Therefore, we will carry on fighting.”

Reading Borough Council (RBC) will decide on cuts to hours of free travel and ReadiBus services after further consultation.

Councillor Eden, chair of the access & disabilities working group, said: “I am very pleased and relieved that the companion pass will be saved, particularly in the context of government cuts.

“I am going to continue to discuss with the council leadership to see if the proposals can be modified or withdrawn, because they are really important services.

“The consultation was really widely responded to. Those thoughtful responses and the feedback from the access and disabilities working group have made a really big difference.

“The council don’t want to make these cuts and if they can stop them they will.”

She said disabled residents were particularly concerned about the possible removal of the companion passes, which allow carers of access pass holders to travel for free.

Councillor Tony Page, Reading’s lead member for transport, said companion bus passes were saved following consultation feedback.

The deputy leader confirmed the decision at Reading Borough Council's (RBC) policy committee on Monday, after councillor Rachel Eden asked for an update.

Other cuts to disabled bus fares are still being considered, following the consultation from May 25 – July 20, which received over 1,300 responses.

The proposals would reduce weekday free bus travel for access pass holders to between 9.30am and 11pm, reverting to the national statutory scheme.

Free travel on ReadiBus services is also under threat.

A further consultation will be undertaken to give older persons and access pass holders who use ReadiBus the chance to respond, with a final decision to be taken at the policy committee.

The proposals have came as a result of a reduction in core funding from £58million to £2million; the funding will end entirely by 2020/21.

Any changes to the scheme will not come into effect until April 1, 2019.