Free bus pass ‘vital to economy’
By Jessamy Hudson on September 10, 2014 ARTICLE COURTESY OF Route One Magazine
New research for Greener Journeys has revealed that concessionary bus travel delivers significant economic benefits.
It says taking away the bus pass could cost the UK economy in excess of £1.7 billion a year, due to a decline in volunteering and poorer health and wellbeing among older people.
The research, by KPMG LLP, shows that every £1 spent on free bus travel for older and disabled people generates over £2.87 of benefits for society and the wider economy.
The study reveals the scheme enables older and disabled people to have fuller and more efficient access to the services they need, and to take part in activities that would not be affordable without the free bus pass.
This freedom to travel has quantifiable social, economic and environmental benefits, including that older people:
◾Can contribute more actively as volunteers. If the concessionary scheme were to be taken away, some £297m worth of annual volunteering benefits could be lost
◾Are more physically active, resulting in improved health and wellbeing with knock-on benefits for health services, worth an estimated £458m annually
◾Make fewer journeys by car, which is worth an estimated £175m a year
◾Underpin and improve the rest of the bus network. If the concessionary scheme were to be taken away, some £447m worth of benefits to other bus users could be lost.
There are other benefits that are more difficult to quantify, including that older people:
◾Feel less lonely and isolated, something crucial to good mental health and well-being, with significant benefits for health services
◾Are more able to look after children and care for others
◾Shop more on their high streets, increasing retail and commercial activity
◾Can travel independently, delivering savings on patient, social services and community transport.
The scheme is very popular, with four out of five of those eligible taking up bus passes. According to Passenger Focus, 95% of passengers agree that older and disabled people should be entitled to a free bus pass.
Claire Haigh, Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, says: “Our research clearly demonstrates that the bus pass means older people are much more active; in family life, in their communities, as well as physically and mentally.
“It is absolutely crucial that the next Government, and its successors, safeguard the concessionary travel scheme.”