Bus pass funding vital say Greener Journeys
New research for transport campaign group, Greener Journeys, shows every £1 spent on free bus travel for older and disabled people generates over £2.87 of benefits for society and the wider economy. According to the research by KPMG LLP, taking away the bus pass could cost the UK economy in excess of £1.7bn a year due to a decline in volunteering and poorer health and wellbeing amongst older people. The study reveals the scheme enables older and disabled people to have fuller and more efficient access to the services they need, as well as to take part in activities that would not be affordable without the free bus pass.
According to the study, if the concessionary scheme were to be taken away, some £297m worth of annual volunteering benefits could be lost. The bus pass helps older and disabled people to be more physically active, resulting in improved health and wellbeing with knock on benefits for health services. These benefits are worth an estimated £458m annually. It claims the scheme leads to fewer journeys by cars, leading to cleaner air and safer and less congested roads, which is worth an estimated £175m a year. If the concessionary scheme were to be taken away, the study suggests some £447m worth of benefits to other bus users could be lost. It claims a number of important benefits the bus pass brings to the economy and wider society are difficult to quantify and therefore not fully statistically recognised in the report, meaning the actual overall boost to the UK economy will be significantly higher than £1.7bn annually. Four out of five of those eligible take up bus passes and across Great Britain over 1.2bn trips were taken by 12m pass holders in 2012/13. According to Passenger Focus research, 95% of passengers agree older and disabled people should be entitled to a free bus pass.
Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, Claire Haigh, said, ‘Our research clearly demonstrates that the bus pass means older people are much more active; in family life, in their communities, as well as physically and mentally. Such activity is vitally important for health and wellbeing, for strong family networks, and, crucially, for local communities and the economy, with vital sectors such as volunteering heavily reliant on older people to survive. It is absolutely crucial that the next Government, and its successors, safeguard the concessionary travel scheme. Any cuts to funding would mean the UK not only loses out on billions of pounds of economic benefits, but that older people would be isolated from society and their communities. Provided the scheme has the funding that it needs, the UK will have a stronger economy, a society in which everyone can take part and a cleaner environment.’