THE unemployed could be given free public transport tickets, in a drive towards greener travel.

As reported earlier this year, Southampton City Council has won a Government grant worth £3.9m to spend on encouraging more people to use sustainable transport.

Plans are still being finalised, but a joint project with Job Centre Plus is likely to feature.

The proposals were revealed at a conference to celebrate the fourth anniversary of StreetTread, a partnership between the council, NHS and transport charity Sustrans.

Since it was started in 2007, the project has been behind initiatives such as the annual Big Bike Celebration, walking for health and a bike loan scheme, aiming to encourage people to ditch the car.

StreetTread is also likely to be at the forefront of plans to spend the injection of Government funding, which will be used over the next three years.

Frank Baxter, Southampton City Council travel and transport manager, said: “One of the projects we’re looking at is how we can support people to get into work, looking at working with Job Centre Plus.

“People out of work could be given a public transport season ticket to allow them to attend interviews, and also during their first month when they’re not being paid.

“We may also provide them with some personalised travel planning.”

The money is also expected to go to projects in deprived areas of Southampton to encourage more people to cycle and walk while there will be research into why people are not using trains and buses.

Mr Baxter said attitudes need to change, adding: “We have got the growth in the city – which we want, with the jobs and everything that brings.

“However we expect there will be a 50 per cent increase in trips into and out of the city centre over the next few years.

“We have got to get into the hearts and minds of people to understand why they make trips by car.”

Those attending the conference who have been involved in StreetTread over the past four years said they hoped to see the work continuing.

Project co-ordinator Thea Bjaaland said the future was hopeful for StreetTread.

She added: “With the Local Sustainable Transport Funding it looks like there’s going to be a project that is going to be bigger and better, but hopefully whatever comes along it will involve StreetTread.

“A lot of the time it’s been a matter of trying to do what we can with the funding we have – so this is very significant. It’s going to be an exciting time over the next three years.”