Abolition of concessionary coach fares
Published on 26 August 2011 04:00 PM
Age UK - Disability Alliance - Campaign for Better Transport
Disabled and older people lose 3 million discounts as Government ends concessionary coach fares.
The Government is abolishing half price coach concessions for older and disabled people from 1st November 2011. In the last year 2.9 million concessionary journeys were made on National Express coaches alone .
Disability Alliance, Age UK and Campaign for Better Transport believe that the cut to the concessionary fare scheme will significantly disadvantage disabled people and older people.
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director of Age UK says: 'Many older people depend on the coach concession to get out and about, to see friends and family or travel further afield if they wish. The coach concession is an effective way of preventing loneliness and social isolation of people in later life. Age UK is calling on the government to delay plans to cut the concession to allow enough time to consult properly with concession pass holders and operators.'
The end of coach concessions also risks the future of some coach routes, especially in rural areas. On many coach routes in the UK, concessionary pass holders make up a significant proportion of passengers. National Express run 18 routes where 32-51% of passengers receive concessions. We fear that the knock-on effect of axing the concessionary fare scheme will mean some routes are abandoned and we believe that older and disabled people in rural areas are likely to be worst affected.
Neil Coyle, Director of Policy at the Disability Alliance says: 'A third of disabled people already live in poverty in the UK and discounted travel - especially long distance - has been a significant help to see family or to be able to take a short break. Many disabled people will be unable to travel at full cost on coaches and train fares can seem out of reach, especially with half working age disabled adults out of work and disabled people in work earning less than non-disabled colleagues' .
Sadly, no public consultation has been conducted on this issue and disabled and older people have been excluded from the debate and decision-making process - possibly unlawfully.
Legislation requires the Department for Transport (DfT) to ensure the impact of decisions on disadvantaged groups, like older and disabled people, is fully analysed . But the assessment for this decision was rushed and we believe is inadequate, failing to take into account the full value of the scheme for health, economic activity and wellbeing of the people who use it. The DfT assessment also fails to consider the potential loss of coach services most used by concessionary passengers and the broader communities affected as a result.
Sophie Allain, a campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport says: 'This has been a hasty and poorly assessed decision which is bad news for older and disabled bus passengers but also threatens to tip a number of coach routes into decline and closure especially in rural and disadvantaged areas. When difficult decisions have to be made it is vital that the Government assesses the impacts fully, consults the public and communicates with operators. Unless the Government pauses to do these things it will be vulnerable coach passengers who lose out.'
Many disabled and older people fear that the Government decision may be the first stop en route to ending the broader concessionary schemes for bus use. Most political parties pledged to protect free bus travel at the last election despite efforts to cut public spending.
- ENDS -
Notes to Editor
 2,887,773 concessionary journeys were made between April 2010 and March 2011 on National Express services. National Express is the largest UK coach operator.
 For information on disability poverty please see Tackling Disability Poverty Disability Alliance, 2009.
 Equality Act.
Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life. We provide free information, advice and support to over five million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life.
Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International. Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798).
For Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland media enquiries please contact the appropriate office: Age Scotland: 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru: 029 2043 1562 and Age NI: 028 9024 5729.
Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929). See: www.bettertransport.org.uk/ for further information. Media contact: Sophie Allain: 07984 773 468
Disability Alliance works to relieve the poverty and improve the living standards of disabled people. Our aim is to break the link between poverty and disability. We provide a range of free information services, including over 50 Factsheets accessed by 328,000 people in 2010/11. Further information on DA is available at: www.disabilityalliance.org Registered charity: 1063115. Media contact: Neil Coyle: 07590 929 441.
Media contact: Andrew Walker
Tel: 020 3033 1433
Out of hours: 07071 243 243