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2008 Retired Members' Conference
14 October 2008

Conference will be aware that the Concessionary Bus Travel Act (CBT) 2007 came into force on 1 April 2008. The Act provides free, off-peak travel (valid between 9.30am-11pm weekdays and at all times on weekends and Bank Holidays) for pensioners and disabled people in England.

This has been welcomed by pensioners but there have been problems in funding the scheme in many areas. Some Local Councils have not had enough money to pay local bus companies for the scheme causing the withdrawal of reliable bus services which has adversely affected many pensioners’ quality of life and well-being. They are becoming isolated and are suffering just when they thought their lives would improve with their free national bus pass.

Conference will be further aware that there were deep concerns that the new national bus pass would fall short of what is needed as it only provides travel on local buses and excludes other forms of travel. This Retired Members’ Conference deplores these limitations.

Conference notes that these concerns have been confirmed as many anomalies in transport provision for older people have persisted after the implementation of the CBT Act. For example, visitors to Blackpool for this year’s Pensioners’ Parliament had to pay to travel by tram whilst holders of a NoWcard English National Concession bus pass living in Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Council or Blackpool Council areas could travel free.

Previously, if pensioners travelled before 9.30am the charge was half-fare; we were led to believe that the new pass would be a BIG advantage to pensioners. Now they are being charged full fare on journeys which start before 9.30am.

Pressure must be put on the powers that be to return to the table and rethink the scheme. We were promised free bus travel in England, however the new bus pass only allows local travel use since it can only be used on local buses.

Conference recognises that there are still many inequalities and restrictions between the various local authority schemes. In particular access to public transport is difficult or impossible for the many disabled, walking impaired and isolated older people. Sixty-five local authorities already offer tokens as an alternative to the bus pass; permitting their use on taxis, trains, community transport and dial-a-ride schemes for example.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 extended in 2005 and the Disability Equality Duty (Dec 2006) put responsibility on all public bodies, including local government to develop a Disability Equality Scheme (DES). This must ensure that all disabled people are treated equally to the able-bodied in accessing mobility.

Conference also recognises that the new pass needs improving and needs to become a National Pass with access to bus, rail and other transport services throughout the United Kingdom without time restrictions. Conference believes that there is a need for free nationwide travel on all public and local transport rather than the current complex and unfair system.

Therefore, Conference requests that the National Retired Members’ Committee and National Executive Council:

i.Continue their efforts through appropriate channels, including through Labour Link, to secure free nationwide travel on all public transport without time restrictions;

ii.Investigate immediately the anomalies of funding from Central Government to Local Councils in order to reinstate the bus services which have been withdrawn;

iii.Encourage members to campaign locally for improvements over the statutory minimum concession.

iv.Work for further improvements to the concessionary travel scheme and to urge the Disability Rights Commission to ensure that local authorities take sufficient steps to make vehicular transport services accessible to disabled, walking impaired and isolated people and by providing an alternative to the free bus pass.

v.Report progress through 2009 editions of Interactive.