Tuesday, 2 July 2019

The Bus Pass

Secret to happiness? A free bus pass in your 60s as researchers link fewer symptoms of depression with concessionary travel cards

  • Free bus travel equals a better quality of life, University College London found
  • Older people with bus passes are more likely physically active and less isolated
  • Comes after peers said pensioners should be stripped of such 'outdated' perks

Having a free bus pass leads to a happier life, research has found.

Those who receive concessionary travel are more likely to enjoy a better quality of life, have greater life satisfaction and fewer symptoms of depression than those who do not, according to researchers from University College London.

Their study also discovered that older people with bus passes are more physically active and less socially isolated than those without one. The analysis comes after peers said last week that pensioners should be stripped of ‘outdated’ perks such as free bus passes to make Britain fairer for younger.


Lead author of the study Dr Sarah Jackson said: ‘Our research shows free bus travel offers clear benefits to older people’s health and wellbeing.’ She added: ‘It helps them to stay active and facilitates better contact with friends and family, which in turn has a positive impact on mental health. And because mental health has knock-on effects for physical health, maintaining wellbeing is also likely to help people stay physically healthy in later life, reducing the financial costs associated with an ageing population.’

The research, published in the Journal of Transport and Health, looked at surveys of 5,861 people eligible for free bus travel in England. Pass holders, who represented 85 per cent of the sample, were 37 per cent less likely to be sedentary on a weekly basis and just over 30 per cent less likely to be classed as socially isolated, the study found. Bus passes are available to everyone when they reach a certain age, depending on where they live in the UK.

The scheme was introduced in England by Gordon Brown’s government through the Concessionary Bus Travel Act of 2007. It was officially launched in April 2008 and allowed anyone over 60 to travel for free during off-peak times. Similar initiatives had already been introduced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

 Pass holders in London can travel free without any time restrictions.

 In England, adults are now entitled to free bus travel once they hit female state pension age – 65 years old. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, free bus travel is available to those aged 60 and over. Pass holders in London can travel free without any time restrictions.

There have been some calls for the scheme to be limited to the less wealthy as it costs around £1.17billion a year in England alone. Department for Transport figures show the number of local bus journeys in England fell by 85million or 1.9 per cent to 4.36billion in the year ending March 2018.

Budgetary constraints mean councils are spending less on discretionary items such as free peak travel, post-school transport and supported rural services.

The Local Government Association has warned that these services are at risk unless councils are given more funding.