Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the National Pensioners Convention (Bus 29)



  The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence on the bus industry. The NPC believes that adequate local transport services can have a significant impact on combating the isolation and social exclusion of older people. Over the past five years the NPC has been campaigning for the introduction of free nationwide bus travel for pensioners in recognition of the lifeline bus travel represents for many older people. This campaign is particularly pertinent, as both Scotland and Wales will be introducing free schemes for pensioners in October 2002. In light of this, we feel it is most appropriate for us to respond to this issue for the purposes of this inquiry.


  2.1  The older population makes up some of the poorest groups in our society. The percentage of pensioners in the bottom quintile of the income distribution increased from 23 per cent to 25 per cent between 1989-99 and 1999-2000[1]. This makes it difficult for many to afford taxis and other forms of private transport.

  2.2  The vast majority of pensioners rely on public transport (54 per cent of pensioner households in England do not have a car[2]) to enable them to be independent and mobile, and to take advantage of opportunities to participate in the normal social activities, which the rest of society take for granted.

  2.3  In the NPC's view, free travel for the disabled and the elder person should be the responsibility of our society. They have the right to expect maximum mobility, with a commitment to ensuring that they are not isolated and do not lose their independence through lack of suitable transport, inadequate income or disability. They have the right to get out to visit friends and relatives, to go shopping or to attend medical appointments.

  2.4  Bus routes should take into account the needs of the local population. For example, the increasing emphasis on out-of-town shopping centres can greatly disadvantage those who do not own a car. In addition many hospitals are located on the edge of towns. Councils, bus companies, relevant businesses and health authorities should work in partnership to provide adequate services for the local population. This may also lead to a reduction in the reliance on community transport services.

  2.5  The added benefit for the state of providing free travel will also show through having a greater number of older people, who are more independent, mobile and actively engaging in society. The benefits to these people will be enormous and their lives will be enriched with significant improvements to the health and social life of older people.

  2.6  Increasing numbers of people using public transport will encourage others to do the same, generating greater usage and a willingness to leave their cars behind. Surveys have shown that in areas where free travel is provided, more journeys overall are made by pensioners on public transport. For example, in the West Midlands, of the 850,000 pensioner journeys made per week, 40 per cent of them would not have been made and 15 per cent would have been made using other forms of transport, if the free scheme had not been available. [3]Ultimately, this will benefit the environment and the lives of future generations.

  2.7  The NPC therefore believes that the case for free nationwide bus travel for all older people is well documented. As previously stated, by October 2002, pensioners in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will all have the benefit of free travel—leaving pensioners in England as second-class travellers. The NPC feel it is now imperative that the Government take steps to address this post-code lottery in bus travel and end the isolation and social exclusion amongst older people that accompanies a lack of affordable and accessible public transport.

April 2002

1   Households below average income 1999-2000. Back

2   Family Expenditure Survey 1999-2000. Back

3   Older People and Concessionary Travel: Help the Aged Briefing Note 2001. Back

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