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Extend the free fares

PUBLISHED: 11:35 19 March 2008 | UPDATED: 14:30 25 August 2010

A TRANSPORT watchdog is demanding free travel services for the elderly and disabled to give them greater access to essential health care.

A TRANSPORT watchdog is demanding free travel services for the elderly and disabled to give them greater access to essential health care.

Darent Valley was among the hospitals which came under criticism for access problems by London TravelWatch (LTW).

It followed a four-month NHS public consultation into the future of healthcare in the capital, Healthcare for London, ending last Friday.

The watchdog said holders of London Freedom Passes are unable to use them to get to the Dartford hospital. They also complained that the number 96 from Woolwich to Bluewater goes past the hospital but does not stop there.

Spokesman for LTW, Jo Debank said: "The people that use freedom passes are the elderly and disabled and they are more likely to be going to hospital than others.

"We are worried because as health care is changing, and not just hospitals but health centres as well, the transport infrastructure must change with it." Freedom passes give the over-60s and disabled free access to most of London's bus and train networks but are not valid for use in north Kent.

LTW also accused the NHS of poor organisation and called for a more inclusive process.

Criticism follows the replacement of the 476 bus through St Mary's and White Oak wards, Swanley, to Darent Valley Hospital with the 423, which does a similar route but cuts out the hospital, by Arriva two weeks ago.

A spokesperson for Darent Valley said: "Darent Valley Hospital is well served by road and public transport. Being close to the Bluewater shopping centre the hospital benefits from an excellent bus service including Fastrack.

"The Trust worked closely with the local councils and the bus services when planning Darent Valley and there is excellent access to and from the hospital.If extending the London area Freedom Pass scheme to include Dartford is identified as an option through the public consultation process we will be happy to take part in any debate.

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