Working in partnership with London TravelWatch

Why are free bus pass holders staying away?

01 July 2022

More than half of concessionary bus pass holders say coronavirus is still a major concern for them, Transport Focus has revealed.

Following the relaxation of coronavirus related restrictions Transport Focus found that fewer pass holders have returned to using buses in comparison to fare payers.

Almost two thirds of pass holders say they are generally making fewer journeys than before the pandemic. However, the rest (35 per cent) say this is because, in terms of coronavirus, they feel the bus is less safe than other types of transport.

Other reasons include services having been reduced, buses not running on time and buses being cancelled at the last minute.

Using buses less because I am walking to avoid close contact with people.” Female, 61-64, older person’s pass holder, currently using buses once or twice a week

The pandemic has changed my travel patterns: some things I used to do in central London I now do locally (such as giving blood or going to the optician). I have retired and therefore no longer make any trips which are directly work-related. I am under less time pressure and sometimes catch buses on a whim to visit a different area or go for a walk.”  Male, 65-70, older person’s pass holder, currently using bus three or four days a week

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said:

“It’s important that concessionary bus pass holders’ needs are met by the bus industry. There is huge potential in not only bringing these passengers back on board but also getting non-users to give bus a go.”

“While the pandemic has changed the way many people travel for good, by improving basics like reliability and frequency, this will go a long way to getting more people on buses.”

To better meet the needs of these users and non-users Transport Focus suggests:

  • using funding, where available, to enhance the network, introduce measures to prioritise buses on roads and improve frequency and reliability
  • look at whether there are opportunities to allow users to travel on concessionary passes in the morning or charge a reduced fare
  • work with passengers and representatives to have targeted communication to build confidence about things like the busyness of the bus, wheelchair access and travelling with a carer
  • consider if there’s anything operators can do to reassure passengers more about the efforts being made to make bus travel safe.


Download the report here.

Press office contact

For further information please contact: Misha MccGwire, senior communications officer, misha.mccgwire@transportfocus.org.uk / 07596 317558.

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