Bus pass funding vital to keep Britain’s economy and society moving

Greener Journeys
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  • New research for Greener Journeys by KPMG LLP 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
  • Free bus passes deliver considerably in excess of £1.7 billion in annual net benefits by enabling older people to lead more active lives that support families, communities and local services
  • Risks to communities and quality of life across UK if Government funding for bus passes is not sustained

Concessionary bus travel for older and disabled people delivers real and significant economic and social benefits, new research has found[1]. Taking away the bus pass could cost the UK economy considerably in excess of £1.7 billion[2] a year due to a decline in volunteering and poorer health and wellbeing amongst older people.

Importantly, the ground-breaking research – conducted by KPMG LLP and commissioned by Greener Journeys, the campaign to promote sustainable travel – confirms the bus pass delivers a huge range of wider benefits to the UK’s society and economy. Using official Department for Transport (DfT) guidelines, it found that for every £1 spent on the bus pass, over £2.87 of benefits were generated, high value for money according to official DfT guidance[3].

The study reveals the scheme enables older and disabled people to have fuller and more efficient access to the services they need, and to take part in activities that would not be affordable without the free bus pass. This freedom to travel has a wide range of multi-faceted and quantifiable social, economic and environmental benefits, including that older people:

  • Can contribute more actively as volunteers. If the concessionary scheme were to be taken away, some £297 million worth of annual volunteering benefits could be lost
  • Are more physically active, resulting in improved health and wellbeing with knock on benefits for health services. These benefits are worth an estimated £458 million annually
  • Make fewer journeys by car, meaning our air is cleaner and our roads are safer and less congested. Together these benefits are worth an estimated £175 million a year
  • Underpin and improve the rest of the bus network. When more people use the bus, operators need to provide additional services, making buses more frequent. If the concessionary scheme were to be taken away, some £447 million worth of benefits to other bus users could be lost

However, 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 £1.7 billion annually. Key areas which would require additional analysis to calculate the overall benefit include that older people:

  • Feel less lonely and isolated, something crucial to good mental health and well-being, with significant benefits for health services. Research has shown that loneliness is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for older people’s health and wellbeing than obesity and physical inactivity[4]
  • Are more able to look after children and care for others. Older people overall provide estimated benefits of £34 billion in social care and £2.7 billion in child care every year[5]
  • Shop more on their high streets, increasing retail and commercial activity. Overall the value of spending by older people to the economy is estimated at over £76 billion per year[6]
  • Can travel independently, delivering savings on patient, social services and community transport

The study also found that if the scheme were to be abolished £152 million in tax revenues would be lost annually, with older people being forced to switch from spending on taxed goods and services to untaxed bus travel.

Overall the scheme is extremely popular, with four out of five of those eligible taking up bus passes, and central to facilitating a large number of bus trips – across Great Britain more than 1.2 billion trips were taken by 12 million pass holders in 2012/13. According to Passenger Focus research, there is also overwhelming public support for the scheme, with 95% of passengers agreeing that older and disabled people should be entitled to a free bus pass[7]. The benefits are also more likely to go to those on low or moderate incomes and those without access to a car[8]. With the UK population over 60, and therefore those eligible for a free bus pass continuing to rise, the benefits to the UK’s society and economy will grow concurrently.

Claire Haigh, Chief Executive of Greener Journeys says:
“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.”

Gigi Eligoloff, Gransnet Editor, says:
“Our users say that concessionary bus passes are an essential benefit for Britain’s older adults, facilitating many journeys that might otherwise not happen. From travel to work, volunteering or making up the country’s large army of unpaid child-carers.

Concessionary bus passes transport older adults to and from leisure and retail centres, creating a huge and vital boost to the economy. And last, but by no means least, these bus passes also facilitate regular opportunities for meeting friends, visiting relatives and enjoying our stunning countryside and holiday resorts.”


For further information contact:

Greener Journeys Press Office
Email: press@greenerjourneys.com
Tel: +44 (0)20 3128 8555

For a copy of the research please contact greenerjourneys@mhpc.com.


[1] Research conducted for Greener Journeys by KPMG LLP: The costs and benefits of concessionary bus travel for older and disabled people in Britain, September 2014
[2] See – Greener Journeys Table A
[3] Value for Money Assessment: Advice Note for Local Transport Decision Makers 
[4] Campaign to EndLoneliness website
[5] Royal Voluntary Service
[6] Royal Voluntary Service
[7] Passenger Focus, England wide concessionary bus travel: The passenger perspective, 2010
[8] Age UK research shows that the vast majority of eligible older people with an annual income below £15,000 own a bus pass and that older people without access to a car are twice as likely to hold a bus pass and five times as likely to use it frequently

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