Warning over concessionary travel 'timebomb'

Thursday, November 29, 2012
Passengers on a bus in South Yorkshire

Funding for concessionary travel could lead to 75% cut in spending on other transport services in ten years’ time

The leaders of the six largest urban transport authorities outside London today warned the national free bus travel scheme for older and disabled people is a financial ‘timebomb’ as the costs of the scheme rise and Government funding for it falls. A report (that has been sent to the Secretary of State for Transport today) shows that although the costs of the scheme are on an upward trend, Government funding will have been reduced by 27% between 2010/11 and 2014/15.

Already funding the scheme takes up around half of all PTE spending. PTEs have very little influence over the cost of the scheme and have no choice but to fund what is a legal requirement. With wider PTE funding also being cut this means that the rising cost of funding the concessionary pass rapidly eats into spending on other frontline transport services. So by 2022, spending on these frontline services could be reduced by three quarters.

Frontline services in the firing line would include:

  • Lifeline bus services that PTEs support at the weekends, in the evenings and those serving isolated communities
  • Services specifically for older and disabled people like dial-a-ride
  • Concessions for children and young people
  • Maintenance and staffing of bus stations
  • Public transport information services (including call centres and printed information)
  • Support for Active Travel measures like walking and cycling
  • The capacity to plan for the impact on local rail networks of major national schemes like HS2

Chair of the group of six authorities, Cllr David Wood, said:

“The national concessionary fares scheme allows older and disabled people to retain their independence, to access shops and services, and visit friends and family. It is of great value, it has been a huge success and we want to see the scheme continue and flourish. However, it cannot be right that the cost of providing what is a national statutory scheme, determined by national government, should create such a heavy funding burden for transport authorities in a way that threatens the future of the services that we provide for all members of our communities, including older and disabled people. There will be little point in a free pass if the bus services that older people are using have to be withdrawn to pay for it. Nobody wants to see that – least of all older and disabled people – which is why we need a sustainable long-term funding solution for concessionary fares which will both guarantee the future of the scheme whilst protecting other essential transport services.”

ENDS

For more information contact Jonathan Bray on 0113 251 7445 / 0781 804 1485