Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Free Bus Passes

As it currently stands, individuals in their 60s are eligible for a free bus pass, allowing them travel on local bus services around the country, regardless of affluence or fitness. Should this really be the case?

With an ever-growing ageing population, many of whom enjoy good health, surely it’s time the age limit for a bus pass was raised. The sheer number of bus passes that are provided must be huge, putting a great strain on funding, which could be diverted to more pressing issues, such as healthcare.

Free bus passes are funded by the Government (Department of Transport), who pass the funds on to local councils, who in turn pay the relevant bus companies. But in some cases funding falls short of what is required, and council taxes may be raised.

Age on its own should possibly not be a qualifying factor, or at least not before the age of 70 or even 75. Individuals younger than this should still qualify if they are on a very low income (it could be related to those receiving pension credits for example) and those whose state of health limits their mobility. Bus passes are already issued to those who have been judged to have a ‘severe disability’ or particular medical condition.

Why should public funds be used to enable really quite wealthy individuals to travel for free? The amount of times recently I have heard well-heeled ‘celebs’ crowing about their free passes is quite sickening. I am certainly of the opinion that this is not right.

Some days I board a bus where I appear to be the only fare-paying passenger. Although many of my fellow travellers appear deserving of their passes, there are others for whom it seems totally inappropriate. Take the group of ladies I see in their designer sportswear heading to a local (expensive) gym on their free passes! Ok, maybe I shouldn’t judge, it just seems pretty inappropriate when so many deserving people are struggling for want of other things that could have received the finance instead.

I really do believe new criteria should be introduced when deciding who should qualify for a free bus pass. What do you think?

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1 comment:

  1. As a proud bus-pass user in my mid 60s, I'm bound to wade in here.

    I have no car - I choose not to have a car. It is a tiny contribution to the environment. But it means that I use buses and trains or am stuck at home.

    Most of those who use the buses do so because they need to. I take your point about wealthy pensioners and universal benefits, but when did you last see a pensioner with a Goochi bag on a bus?

    However, many of those who reach bus-pass age apply for one they will never use, as a right of passage. The process of application costs taxpayers' money, yet they will never be used. If there were a modest cost to cover administration, then these applicants would be deterred - I also have a senior railcard and a coach card, both of which I paid for.

    Universal benefits are cheap to administer. When you bring in means testing, you bring in a layer of administration, plus appeals procedures etc. Without the evidence that means testing bus passes would actually save money and not simply pass the cost from transport to admin, then I can't see that it's justified. But a small payment for the card - that makes sense to me.