End of the road for go-anywhere bus pass
or this from the BBC web site:
Millions of pensioners may no longer be able to use their bus pass for free off-peak national travel in England.
Ever since the concession was widened last year The Times & others have treated this as some kind of freebie for affluent retirees, with the emphasis on jaunts from Lands End to John o’ Groats
In London free travel on public transport has been available to those over retirement age (Twirlies) for well over a quarter of a century. This is a valuable concession in an area where use of public transport extends much further up the socio-economic & income scales
And Greater London covers a huge area. Free travel would be much less valuable (& tedious to apply) if available only within your home borough
I have written here before (under the Economics of the bus pass label) about the complications caused by local authority boundaries outside London, which affected in a seemingly arbitrary way the use of bus passes for ordinary trips for things like shopping or medical appointments, never mind gallivanting
The only sensible, straightforward, easy to understand & apply solution to this problem seemed to be to make passes ‘go anywhere’ on all local bus services
Well before the new rules were introduced last April someone in the local bus company had worked out a way of using the pass to travel ‘free’ all the way to London
I cannot remember how many days it would have taken, but the implication was clear. Unless you were prepared to sleep in bus stations (passes are available for travel only between 9.30 am & 11 pm) or could find people to put you up overnight, it is much cheaper, simpler, more comfortable & convenient, as well as quicker, to buy a Senior Rail Card & go by train
The new system has caused a few obvious problems , though we hear most about the effects on tourist areas. I suspect the burden may fall more heavily on large urban centres. One would hope that the Transport Department is monitoring the real patterns of usage to identify where the costs really fall
The solution now proposed is to withdraw the concession for services, such as London to Brighton, or sight seeing tours, which do not seem to be exactly local, by withdrawing free passes for services on which more than half the seats are bookable
My fear is that, either through sloppy drafting, or ‘clever’ interpretation by bus companies or councils, the term ‘bookable’ may well turn out to be applicable to most bus services. What, for example, is the status of the paid for, available to all age groups, ‘go anywhere’ daily, weekly or period passes? Do they count as booked seats?
If so, we risk losing all the social & economic benefits of independent mobility for people who have no other means of transporting themselves