Transport User Voice August 2023 – Free bus pass travel

20 July 2023

New research results

More than a third of older and disabled concessionary bus pass holders say they are using buses less than before the pandemic, new research reveals.

We spoke to 2500 members of our transport user panel to understand how bus use has changed and what measures could be taken to encourage older and disabled pass holders back on board. In the survey we spoke to people that used the bus less during the pandemic and had not increased over the last year to understand why they hadn’t returned. 27 per cent say are still getting out less, particularly for days out or shopping trips, which have been hit by the cost of living crisis and high street closures.

Of those who have not returned, around three in 10 (31 per cent) say they are travelling less because services have been cut or have become less reliable, in some cases being cancelled at the last minute. Three in 10 older and disabled people said coronavirus was a concern, down from more than half over a year ago. Only seven per cent are now worried about catching Covid on a bus although, for these people, it still represents a barrier to their return.

Older and disabled people continue to say they are frustrated at not being able to use their free passes on buses in the morning rush-hour. Transport Focus recommended that the bus industry consider reducing fares to help.

Encouragingly one in four in the survey have used the Government’s £2 bus fare scheme in England this year to travel before 9.30am. The new Government ‘Take the Bus’ campaign to encourage them to use the free bus travel is also a welcome step.

Survey findings

  • Among those whose used buses less frequently during the pandemic 69 per cent say that this is because they made fewer journeys for days out or for leisure trips. 49 per cent say that they felt less safe using bus than using other forms of transport, while 44 per cent made fewer shopping trips.
  • For people who have not returned to using the bus more than 12 months ago, the top factor that would increase their bus use was better service frequency (55 per cent), followed by the bus going to more destinations (48 per cent).
  • Encouragingly 7 per cent of people whose use of bus has increased over the last year, say that this is due to their using the £2 flat rate fare scheme in England to make journeys before 9.30am.


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