Plymouth students told they are too old to qualify for a bus pass
MATURE students who have been told they are "too old" to qualify for concessionary bus fares say they feel discriminated against.
A group of students from Plymouth University have launched a campaign to tackle Citybus on their fares policy which states that only those in full-time education and up to the age of 23 are eligible for discounted bus tickets.
Words such as "ageist", "discriminatory" and "unfair" have been used by the students to describe the bus company's policy.
Emma Wilson, vice president of the Plymouth University Student Union education and welfare, said: "At the beginning of the academic year we had a number of students coming to the union to tell us that they had been refused student fares to which we contacted Citybus and received a less than satisfactory reply, with the policy remaining unchanged.
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"Now more and more students have become angered by the policy and so we have started a campaign to get things changed – we are appealing to any students in the city who feel discriminated against to join us."
Over 20 students are currently involved with the campaign but as word spreads, numbers are growing daily, Miss Wilson said.
With plans for a letter writing campaign and photocard protest (where students will pose with signs asking things like: 'Should we busk because we're over 23?') the students have many ideas on how to get the policy changed.
Simon Clarke, 25, a second year IT student at the university, said: "My wife, who is also 25, is studying to be a nurse and has to get to Derriford everyday for work placements and lessons. She is made to pay full fare on the bus, which works out at around £4 a day, and I think it's incredibly unfair that she isn't eligible for the reduced rate considering what she is doing."
International student Sergej Sapalov, 28, said he had been told by the bus operator that he was too old for student fares and thinks the policy should be inclusive, regardless of age.
But Peter Oliver, commercial manager at Citybus, said the policy was in place to prevent fraudulent activity. He said: "At the moment, because the concessionary fares are done on smart card and key, there is no database that we can access that tells us who is in full time education.
"But people need to remember that we are one of the few travel company's that offers student discount.
"It's only recently that we opened child fares from 16 years of age to include those up to 19 years of age and students to those under 23, and I feel like we're being condemned."
At Plymouth College of Art there are currently 769 students aged over 23, although not all of these students live within Plymouth and use Citybus services.
Leslie Blunt, student funding officer at the college, said: "Having to pay the full cost of the bus-fare added to the increased cost of living means cash-strapped students will have to mange their money even more carefully now."
Citybus added that they were aware of a way to access the National Union of Student's database which they were looking in to.
Mr Oliver said: "Once there is a mechanism in place whereby we can identify full time students we will try to put something in place for full time older students, but only on season tickets, not cash fares."