Boris Johnson to ‘digitalise’ free bus passes with £3bn ‘shake-up’ – pensioners impacted
Martin Lewis discusses state pension underpayments
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Boris Johnson has committed billions to the bus sector, with the Prime Minister confirming yesterday the sector will receive an ambitious “shake-up” which aims to offer lower, simpler flat fares in towns and cities, turn-up-and-go services on main routes and new flexible services to reconnect communities. These changes are set to impact pensioners in England who can get a bus pass for free travel when they reach the female state pension age.
The investment is designed to “level up” services across the country and encourage more people to use the bus rather than their cars as the UK recovers from the pandemic.
The specific changes/plans announced include:
- Simpler bus fares with daily price caps, so people can use the bus as many times a day as they need without facing mounting costs
- More services in the evenings and at the weekends
- Integrated services and ticketing across all transport modes, so people can easily move from bus to train
- All buses to accept contactless payments
The announcement also details local authorities and operators will work together to deliver bus services that are so frequent, passengers can just “turn up and go”, reducing the need to rely on traditional timetables and having the confidence that they won’t have to wait more than a few minutes.
Boris Johnson provided the following comments along with the announcement: “Buses are lifelines and liberators, connecting people to jobs they couldn’t otherwise take, driving pensioners and young people to see their friends, sustaining town centres and protecting the environment.
“As we build back from the pandemic, better buses will be one of our first acts of levelling up.
“Just as they did in London, our reforms will make buses the transport of choice, reducing the number of car journeys and improving quality of life for millions.
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Within the Department for Transport’s strategy document, it was also revealed that free bus passes for pensioners would also see change.
As quoted from the National Bus Strategy for England: “We will review eligibility for free bus travel for disabled people to ensure that we are improving equality of opportunity and helping disabled people participate fully in public life.
“We will also look to digitalise the concessionary bus pass for older and disabled people in England, giving passengers the option to store their permit on a smartphone.”
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, welcomed the changes and commented on what needs to occur moving forward: “Buses are this country’s favourite way of getting around. They help us get to school, to the GP, or to the shops – but services across England are patchy, and it’s frankly not good enough.
“The quality of bus service you receive shouldn’t be dependent on where you live. Everyone deserves to have access to cheap, reliable and quick bus journeys.
“The strategy we’re unveiling today will completely overhaul services, ensuring we build back better from the pandemic.
“Key to it is the new deal it offers to councils – we will provide unprecedented funding, but we need councils to work closely with operators, and the government, to develop the services of the future.”
The announcement was also welcomed by Anthony Smith, the chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, who had the following to say: “For bus passengers, today’s announcement of more frequent buses and simpler fares will be welcome news. For many, buses are a lifeline to employment, education, medical appointments and leisure, and are essential to the economy. We know that the key priorities for those considering using the bus are more services running more reliably, providing better value.
“Since the pandemic, safety and cleanliness have become ever more important. We will work with bus operators and other partners to make sure passengers’ needs are at the heart of new arrangements.”
To apply for a free bus pass claimants will need to head to the Government’s website where a free-to-use tool will allow them to enter their postcode and from there, they’ll be given details on how to contact their local councils.
It should also be remembered that people living in London can get free travel on buses, tubes and other transport when they turn 60.
Additionally, those living in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland also get their free passes when they turn 60.
Over the coming years, the Government has plans to increase the state pension age to 68 and this may also impact when people can apply for free travel.
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