LGA say support for concessionary fares have been reduced by a third since 2010 under the scheme the local councils have to provide off peak travel for those over 62 and the disabled. The current level of funding is protected till 2015/16. The cost of funding has been cut by £261 million since the coalition government came to power. It was reported in mid-2012 by Mr Cameron that if returned in 2015 he would legislate to abolish the pass in its present form. The huge social, economic, health and well-being benefits of the pass are at risk. Politicians of all parties need to understand that they attack the bus pass at their electoral peril.
Example: A lady whose son is in a residential home miles from where she lives has a journey which involves a bus to the local train station, a train to Lime Street Station in Liverpool another train to Southport and then a bus to the care home – the return journey in reverse. If she did not have her free travel pass she would have to rely on family to take her when they could or she would have to visit less often due to the cost of fares. The current cost of bus and train fares is in the region of £15 per trip.
If the free travel pass is withdrawn many would not leave their homes as they do now. They know they can get up in the morning, get ready and go out for a few hours or all day to meet friends, do shopping or visit places of interest. All this keeps body and mind fit and active and in our view makes them a lesser burden on the NHS. Staying indoors all day, sometimes without heating due to the high cost of this utility, contributes to poor mental and bodily health and can put a strain on the already stretched NHS. Many pensioners use their passes to attend day clubs, whilst out they are not having to use their own heating so the loss of the free bus pass can have more consequences than people realise.
The far reaching consequences of pensioners having to cut down on journeys because of cost could affect their general stress levels and well-being due to isolation from their local community. Many pensioners have hospital appointments and visits, and as many hospitals are out of town the free bus pass enables them to get there independently and not to have to rely on family, friends or ambulance services. The economy and businesses of local towns would without doubt suffer, buses potentially could be reduced due to lack of passengers and therefore employment would also be affected.
Reply from:- Department for Transport
Firstly, there are no plans to either withdraw the statutory entitlement to concessionary bus travel or to introduce means testing to assess eligibility for the scheme. The right to a free bus travel for both older and disabled people is enshrined in primary legislation and in the 2010 Spending Review the Chancellor of The Exchequer confirmed the Government’s commitment to preserving the current statutory entitlement to concessionary bus travel in this parliament. Local buses are the most commonly used mode of public transport of the older person and the free local bus travel England-wide ensures that the elderly and disabled need not be prevented from bus travel by cost alone. Indeed the free transport aids these groups to take advantage of health services and visiting family and friends.