A SOUTH Worcestershire-based public transport group is calling for young people to get half-price fares on buses, trains and coaches.

The Vale Public Transport Group - the only group of its kind in the county - is also urging increased government funding for ailing rural bus routes and for senior citizens bus passes.

The group - comprising representatives from local town and parish councils in the Vale - contacted both local MPs Harriett Baldwin and Nigel Huddleston shortly before the election was announced and is now calling for all-party support.

In South Worcestershire, which has suffered some of the worst bus cuts in the whole country, the group also says much more can be done to integrate train and bus services especially in the light of the forthcoming upgrade of the Cotswold Line rail service to hourly.

Existing bus services such as those from Evesham to Redditch and Evesham to Stratford-upon-Avon could be better promoted and improved to provide bus/rail access between the Cotswolds and the West Midlands.

Meanwhile the group says that the current Evesham-Broadway bus link which receives no subsidy from the county council should be upgraded to hourly both for local and longer distance commuters into services from Evesham's rail station as well as for tourists and leisure travellers.

Pershore's popular Plumline bus service could provide improved links to the town's station as well as being extended to serve the fast-growing village of Drakes Broughton which has lost almost all its buses in recent cutbacks.

Julian Palfrey, the group's chairman, said: "These proposals represent a package of measures which we are discussing with county and district councils and rail/bus watchdog Transport Focus to improve and encourage people back on to our local bus services and positively tackle the growing issues of rural isolation, congestion. pollution and climate change.

"Rural isolation affects the young as well as older people in view of the almost total lack of evening and weekend buses.

"It is vital that any future government introduces a nationwide system of half-price fares for 16-18 year olds to replace a patchwork quilt of local schemes - or indeed no such facilities at all.

"It is after all half a century since the last national extension of young people's fares to 16-year-olds at a time when most are staying on at school, going on to further education or into lower-paid jobs at the start of their working careers."