DISABLED people in Reading can continue to use buses for free before 9.30am, after plans to cut the scheme were scrapped.

As part of Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) budget saving proposals, disabled people would have had to pay for the bus before 9.30am and after 11pm.

Those using Companion Passes and the ReadiBus would have had to pay too.

“We are pleased to be able to announce that none of the proposed changes to the Access Pass scheme will be taken forward,” said Tony Page, Reading’s lead councillor for Transport.

The ReadiBus dial-a-ride bus service offers transport for people with restricted mobility and is free for the 6,000 Access Pass holders in Reading and Older Person Pass holders. The Companion Passes are for disabled people who have trouble travelling alone.

There is a national requirement to allow free travel for disabled people and older people between 9.30am and 11pm, but RBC exceeds this and allows travel at all times of day.

Chris Goodall, 76, of Hawthorne Road in Caversham, is a stroke victim who uses the bus every day and campaigned against the planned budget cuts.

Mr Goodall said: “Very good news – I welcome it on behalf of the Reading Stroke Survivors.

"Disabled people would have to pay to go to the hospital if they had outpatient appointments before 9.30am, and there are a lot of early morning appointments.

“I very much welcome the council’s decision to scrap this proposal. It would have hit the poorest first. Although I do recognise that the poor old councillors have had to make difficult decisions based on the government’s massive reduction in funding.”

A consultation on the changes received 1,377 responses regarding the Access Pass and 724 the Older Person scheme, which were mostly against the planned cuts. As a result, Reading’s Labour Group announced its intention to scrap the proposals.

Cllr Page said: “These proposals were only ever brought forward with great reluctance and in the face of relentless attacks on vital public services by this government. We need to remember that the Conservatives will have cut government funding for Reading by £58m.

between 2010 and 2020, leaving the council with no funding from national government.

“The overwhelming public response to the recent consultations, and the huge amount of work which has taken place behind the scenes to stabilise the council’s budget position, means we no longer intend to take these proposals forward.”