Older and disabled people 'trapped' by bus cuts


More than a third of older and disabled concessionary bus pass holders are using buses less than before the pandemic, according to new research from the passenger watchdog.

Transport Focus spoke to 2,500 members of its transport user panel to understand how bus use has changed and what measures could be taken to encourage older and disabled pass holders back on buses.

This included speaking to people whose use of buses fell during the pandemic and has not increased over the last year to understand why. A quarter (27%) said they are still getting out less, particularly for days out or shopping trips, which have been hit by the cost of living crisis and high street closures.

Of those who have not returned to their previous level of bus use, around three in 10 (31%) said they are travelling less because services have been cut or have become less reliable, in some cases being cancelled at the last minute.

Three in 10 older and disabled people said coronavirus was a concern, down from more than half over a year ago. Only 7% are now worried about catching the virus on a bus although, for these people, it still represents a barrier to their return.

David Sidebottom, director at Transport Focus, said: ‘In our survey, we heard from older and disabled people who felt trapped and isolated by the removal of some bus services and from others who felt anxious and frustrated by their unreliability.

‘However, our research also indicated that where improvements to bus services have been made, passengers have noticed and started using buses more. Ongoing support and investment in buses by Government is welcome.

‘The bus industry must continue to focus on improving reliability and frequency at key times, which remain the key driver of many discretionary bus trips for older and disabled passengers.’

Older and disabled people continued to say they are frustrated at not being able to use their free passes on buses in the morning rush hour. Transport Focus has recommended that the bus industry consider reducing fares to help.

One in four respondents in the survey have used the Government’s £2 bus fare scheme in England this year to travel before 9.30am.

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