Memorandum by the National Pensioners
Convention (Bus 29)
THE BUS INDUSTRY
1. THE INTRODUCTION
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. BUS TRANSPORT
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.
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)
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. 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 travelleaving 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.
1 Households below average income 1999-2000. Back
Family Expenditure Survey 1999-2000. Back
Older People and Concessionary Travel: Help the Aged Briefing
Note 2001. Back