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Public transport failing oldest and most vulnerable

Published on 18 June 2015 11:01 PM

Public transport system failing the oldest and most vulnerable in society says new report by The International Longevity Centre - UK and Age UK

The Future of Transport in an Ageing Society (1), a new report by think tank The International Longevity Centre - UK (ILC-UK) (2) and charity Age-UK, highlights the travel problems faced by millions of older people.

  • Despite free bus travel, one third of over 65s in England never use public transport. And over half either never use public transport or use it less than once a month.
  • Approximately 35,000 people aged 65-84 in England have difficulty walking even a short distance (3), but are restricted to using public transport making any journey difficult.
  • 1.45 million over 65s find it quite difficult or very difficult to travel to a hospital, whilst 630,000 over 65s find it difficult or very difficult to travel to their GP.

Furthermore the report shows that it is the oldest old, those who are in poor health and those living in rural areas who are let down the most by the current public transport system:

  • Among the over 80s less than 55% report finding it easy to travel to a hospital, a supermarket or a post office.
  • Among the over 65s who report that it is ‘Very Difficult' for them to travel to see their GP, less than 30% are in good health.
  • Just 20% of those aged 70-74 living in rural areas use public transport weekly, compared to 38% of those who live in an urban setting.

The report argues that with the start of the new Parliament it is time to embrace the opportunities for improvement. In particular, devolution of central Government powers to local communities could mean more flexible transport services which better reflect the needs of older people, while advances in technology, including driverless cars, could further expand older people's transport options.

Helen Creighton of ILC-UK said:

"Travel is essential for independent living and has been shown to benefit physical health and mental wellbeing in later life. Furthermore there is evidence that maintaining older people's mobility has substantial economic benefits, with analysis by ILC-UK estimating that concessionary fares will provide a net benefit to the wider community of £19.4 billion in the years up to 2037 (4). This report, which highlights the travel difficulties facing older people, emphasises the need to adapt our transport system to meet the demands of our ageing society."

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said:

"It is crucial that older people are able to get out and about, especially as the evidence shows this helps them retain their health and independence for longer. Against this context it is worrying that so many older people are struggling to reach hospital, or sometimes even their local GP.

"This report should be a wakeup call because it shows our transport system is not currently meeting the needs of our growing ageing population. The bus pass is an absolute lifeline for many who would otherwise be stranded at home and is utterly essential, but the truth is it's not enough on its own to enable older people to stay mobile.

For example, better transport planning and more imaginative use of volunteers could make a big difference today; and in the medium term 'driverless cars' and other technological innovations could be real game changers."

Notes to Editors

1. The Future of Transport in an Ageing Society is available from the ILC-UK website from 00.01 19 June 2015 Advance copies available upon request, please email For further queries call the ILC-UK office on 0207 340 0440.

2. ILC-UK - The International Longevity Centre-UK is the leading think tank on longevity and demographic change. It is an independent, non-partisan think-tank dedicated to addressing issues of longevity, ageing and population change. We develop ideas, undertake research and create a forum for debate.

3. Analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing shows that aapproximately 35,000 people aged 65-84 in England are restricted to using public transport but have difficulty walking just ¼ of a mile.

4. Research by Greener Journeys and KPMG shows that concessionary fares generate £2.87 in benefits for every £1 spent on the subsidy - Greener Journeys (2014) The costs and benefits of concessionary bus travel for older and disabled people in Britain. Using the research by, ILC-UK has, using ONS population projections, projected the future cost benefit of concessionary travel to Great Britain. Excluding those who receive concessionary travel below state pension age, the total net benefit to the individual receiving the concessionary travel, other passengers and the wider community is predicted to be £83.41 billion between 2015 and 2037. Of this total, the net benefit to other passengers and the wider community will be £19.4 billion.

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Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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