ANGRY pensioners will today get the chance to grill bus and council transport chiefs over what they feel are poor and unfair services.

Elderly residents in Southampton are incensed the city council has not joined a countywide scheme allowing free travel across Hampshire.

It means they must pay if they want to take a bus beyond the city boundaries, while those living elsewhere can travel in and out for free.

Pensioners also upset at perceived cuts in services and a lack of accessibility to many vehicles will get the chance to air their grievances at a special meeting of Southampton Pensioners' Forum.

Representatives from First Hampshire, Solent Blue Line and Uni Link will all attend, along with Councillor Jill Baston, Cabinet member for environment and transport.

"We should be treated the same as the rest of the pensioners in Hampshire," said the forum's secretary, Don Harper.

"Only Southampton and Fareham have opted out (of the free travel scheme). All the others, including Portsmouth, signed up - why do we have to be different?"

Mr Harper, of Montague Close, Southampton, said the policy has caused some pensioners difficulty visiting families or going shopping, while restricting their choices of medical treatment to within the city.

But Cllr Baston says there is "absolutely no way" the council could pay for countywide travel, and will be happy to explain why.

"We only have enough money to allow free transport within the city boundaries," she said.

"In Southampton we have large facilities available which might not be in other areas of the county.

"It's perfectly fair in terms of what we have to work with. The funding we've got is not covering the amount the passes are being used, which is more than the government expected."

Cllr Baston added bus companies are unhappy at the county scheme, leading to a reduction in some services.

Pensioners will quiz bus chiefs about this at the meeting, which starts at 2pm in the council chamber.

"They've used these passes as an excuse to cut services," said Mr Harper.

"We've noticed in Southampton they've gone from every quarter-hour to half-hour, but out in the county they've been cutting services all together.

"Hopefully they (the bus companies) will take on board what we say.

"I think the council will take it on because there are elections coming up next year and if they know there's strong feeling they must take notice."