Later Life Ambitions Policy Positions
Decent and affordable public transport is a vital line of support for older people, enabling them to retain their independence, providing health and economic benefits.
Evidence from the Campaign for Better Transport suggests that the average concessionary bus pass is used over 100 times a year. For every £1 of public money spent on the scheme £1.50 of economic activity is generated. Bus passes contribute to local economy by keeping older people connected and in 25% of cases bus passes are used to undertake voluntary work or unpaid caring.
Measures contained in the Buses Act 2017 aim to improve the way that local bus services are delivered, such as by introducing smart ticketing in more areas and real-time information. Where public transport is comfortable, reliable and affordable, it is possible to create a virtuous circle whereby increased passenger numbers make delivering services more profitable and encourage the expansion of the network, as has happened in London. However, in too many parts of the country the quality of service is inadequate, without any provision of assistance for older people.
Ensuring a positive user experience on local transport is almost as important for older people as having the service available. We welcome measures contained in the Buses Act to improve services, however we also want to see buses made more accessible to all. We support the Guide Dogs campaign to make audio-visual announcements on new buses compulsory. All local authorities should have a statutory requirement to provide and maintain minimum standards of accessibility for older people to a supported bus network. Accessibility of train services is also an issue, with, for example, many stations having large gaps between platform and train carriage. Later Life Ambitions would therefore like to see adequate assistance for older people on trains and provisions for the assistance and protection of health and safety for older passengers.
Simplicity and ease of use is a key consideration for older people. Currently the concessionary bus pass can only be used on local buses in the country of issue with limited concessions allowing travel to locations across borders. In contrast the bus passes issued in Northern Ireland allow full access to public transport in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We want a transition from a locally administered bus pass system to a nationally administered travel pass system for pensioners, which can be used on all forms of public transport – buses, coaches, rail and tram. However, we are concerned at proposals to introduce non-paper ticketing for train travel, such as only being able to use smartphones, oyster cards and electronic debit cards to travel, as this can make the price of paper tickets, where they are still available, more expensive as a result. Older people who are not able to use these technologies should not be disadvantaged in terms of price.
These policies would incentivise older people to make longer journeys for tourism and leisure purposes, which would be of benefit to the UK economy. In 2012, the Government conducted a pilot that allowed senior and disabled concessionary bus pass holders to receive discounted rail fares on selected routes, without a railcard. Whilst this was a success, the scheme was not extended. The Senior Railcard is very important to older people and must be protected, although we would support removing the £30 per year fee, which does not encourage older people to use the railways.
Many older people choose to enjoy their retirement by going on holiday in Europe. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which provides necessary medical treatment either free or at a reduced cost, is a key enabler of this travel as it gives older people the confidence that any urgent health needs will be affordable. Later Life Ambitions welcomes the Government confirming it will seek to secure a continuation of the EHIC after Brexit.
If you would like any more information about the LLA policy positions, please contact Tristan Westgate at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 020 7592 9592.