Free Travel Pass

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2007 National Delegate Conference
1 June 2007

Conference believes that the provision of free travel is beneficial to the health and well-being of people over 60, and greatly enhances their quality of life.

The government included in the 2005 budget, the introduction of free local bus travel for pensioners in April 2006.

However, implementation has been costly and complicated. There have been anomalies in implementation between local authorities throughout England. In some towns, for example Southampton, free bus travel is limited to within a city boundary, with two exceptions, one to a hospital, the other to a supermarket, both just outside the boundary. In other parts of Hampshire, for example, Portsmouth and Eastleigh, pensioners can travel free anywhere in the Hampshire county. In some cases authorities have reverted to less generous time and boundary restrictions than were previously in place. These anomalies are happening throughout England.

Conference therefore welcomes the government proposal to introduce free nationwide bus travel for people over 60 from April 2008.

But this commitment falls short of UNISON policy calling for the introduction of free nationwide road and rail travel for people over 60.

The Freedom Pass has been identified as being of great benefit to the over 60’s in the Greater London region. That this ‘all modes’ concession has not been available to the remainder of the United Kingdom (UK) is a scandal; it is bad enough that London’s level of public transport provision is better than other regions by virtue of bus services not being deregulated as well as government funding always exceeding the per capita provision across the rest of the UK, without this further discriminatory approach.

Why is the government determined to make pensioners wait? Campaigning, lobbying and meetings with the Ministry of Transport do not seem to have any effect on policy. The government’s proposal for free nationwide bus travel for pensioners in April 2008 must be amended:

1) free nationwide travel should include buses, trams, trains, tubes/metros and local ferries, with no restrictive time penalties on travel; and

2) implementation should be no later than April 2008.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to urgently address this issue and to vigorously campaign together with the Trades Union Congress, the National Pensioners’ Convention, Help the Aged and any other relevant organisation, to ensure strong pressure is put on the government to introduce free nationwide ‘all modes’ public transport travel for people over 60 no later than April 2008, and provide appropriate government funding without the possibility of consequential or detrimental cuts in service provision or loss of transport workers’ jobs.