Thursday 12 December 2013

Pensioners' passes: Palaver!

Britain's pensioners are currently on to a very good deal. They get completely free off-peak bus travel in their particular country of the UK, supposedly paid for by the government.

Except it doesn't work like that. As budgets are slashed, so are the amounts that councils have to pay their share to the pensioners' pass scheme, meaning bus companies are simply not being reimbursed for the true cost of transporting OAPs.

The shortfall is being added to the fares that working age passengers have to pay. Fares that have already been rising far higher than the cost of inflation or the cost of motoring. So much so, that high fares are now putting many people who have a choice off using public transport, making it more likely that routes will be cut.

Something needs to change.

Many pensioners rightly argue that they've worked hard all their life so now feel entitled to make the most of their passes. While right in principle, they forget that the taxes they've paid all their life aren't just lying around in tenner-filled rooms in Whitehall. The country is in debt. The taxes they paid when working were spent on stopping the banks from going under. The government's contribution to the cost of their passes now comes partly from the taxes paid by people working today (the very people being priced off some routes by high fares) and partly from borrowing on the markets, for future generations to actually pay off.

Many young people can't afford to run a car and are struggling to find work. They will struggle all the more with fewer bus services and high fares on those routes that remain.

There are no easy solutions, but the situation of fare payers being priced out has to end. Buses full of pensioners and only pensioners are not economical. Buses should be for everyone and everyone should contribute.

For the health of bus networks and the general good of local economies everywhere, this blog calls for pensioners' passes in their current form to be scrapped.

At the very least there should be an annual contribution to be paid before such passes are issued. This could be combined with a token fare of say 30p to be paid per journey. Pensioners would still be paying far less for their travel than fare payers, but more routes would be safeguarded and farepayers would be under less pressure to pay to cover the cost of pensioners' travel.

The disabled should still be entitled to free travel, but this could be restricted to the county of residence and maybe one or two neighbouring ones, rather than the entire country.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let us know.


  1. Probably the best approach with the passes is to introduce an annual charge based on their tax band

    0% Tax - No charge
    20% Tax - £40 per annum
    40% Tax - £80 per annum
    45% Tax - £90 per annum

    Above based on estimated annual cost of a pass being £200

  2. Further revenues could be raised by changing the current illogical Free School transport system which hits rural areas particularly hard

    Currently if a primary school pupil lives more than 2 miles from a school or a secondary school pupil lives more than three miles from a school they get totally free travel. This should be changed so that they have to pay for the first 2 or 3 miles travel with the councils only covering any actual extra cost

    The money saved could be used to both maintain existing buses service and used to lower child fares

  3. Although it's a difficult problem, pensioners are already penalised by very low old age pensions, where heating costs now have to come before food. It's also true to say that they have contributed throughout their lifetime and get very little return for their many hard years of work.

    Far too many of those now in their 30-40's have spent much of their life so far in various forms of (costly) education, with few useful skills to show at the end, and may well contribute far less financially during their lifetime.

  4. We have this image of frail old women barely able to eat or keep warm. But in reality a huge proportion of pensioners today are amongst the richest people in the country. Means test the bus pass.

  5. It is far too easy in such comments and criticisms and claim one size or attitude fits all. We can all feel 'hard done by' with the current situation and blame one or other age group etc. That doesn't help anyone other than the bankers and politicians who are happy to see us blame one another and not them!

  6. I'm not against moving to a system of a low fare payment for using the pass, but I don't trust how it would work in practice. Government locally and nationally is very good at taking such financial savings for themselves and In my experience will pass very little if anything over to the operators.
    Also remember how free and then low priced prescriptions have rocketed.


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