Public Transport for an Ageing Population
Reviewed in this week’s French Connection, a report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has stated the current system of transport subsidy for older people will become unstable unless a review of it is made. Entitled ‘Public Transport for an Ageing Population’, the study claims the changes in UK demographics will greatly increase demand for public transport from older people. By 2021, it is estimated that 20% of the urban population in the UK and 29% in rural areas will be over the age of 65.
‘Public Transport for an Ageing Population’ recommends the Government reviews the universal transport subsidy for older people. It said consideration must be given to subsidising the vulnerable few, whilst diverting the majority of funds to improve accessibility of the transport network for all. The report states that transport and infrastructure providers need to ensure their engineers implement an integrated transport strategy over the next 20 years to cater for the growing older population. For example, this includes providing clearer signage, installing more escalators, providing more seating at stops and stations and adapting ticket machines to make them more user-friendly. It also suggests the Government and local authorities include older people’s views and experience when developing new public transport infrastructure.
Responding to the report, Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, Claire Haigh, said, ‘Buses are a vital lifeline for many older people so it’s important to make sure they are easily accessible, but taking away the bus pass is not the answer. Free bus passes generate extensive social and economic benefits, for example by enabling volunteers and carers to support their communities, and allowing older people to visit friends and family. Greener Journeys’ research shows that every £1 spent providing free bus passes generates £2.87 of wider social and economic benefits, and withdrawing them would be a damaging backward step.’