Concessionary Bus Fares in England: the Impact on Bus Travel by the Over-60s

Concessionary Bus Fares in England: the Impact on Bus Travel by the Over-60s


J Dargay, R Liu, ITS University of Leeds, UK


This paper examines the impact of concessionary bus travel schemes for the over-60s in England using data from the National Travel Survey. It is based descriptive measures and econometric modelling.


The Transport Act 2000 required all local authorities in Great Britain to provide a minimum standard concession of half fare on buses from 9:30 am for individuals of pensionable age. Prior to this, provision of concessionary travel was left to the discretion of the local authorities. From 1 April 2006, free local bus travel for the over 60s was introduced in England, and then extended nationally in April 2008. The object of this study, carried out for the Department for Transport, is to investigate the impact of the concessionary schemes on bus travel of the over-60s. The analysis is based on primarily on data from the National Travel Survey of Great Britain. This has been complemented with information obtained from the Travel Concession Authorities on concessionary schemes in existence prior to the introduction of free travel.

The analysis is both descriptive and analytical. Bus travel and pass-holding in England are examined for periods characterised by the different concessionary fare schemes. These are compared with Scotland and Wales, where free bus travel was introduced earlier. A more detailed examination of changes in concessionary bus travel in England is provided by considering different areas based on population, individuals with different characteristics (age, gender, car availability) and differing access to bus services. The frequency of bus use on an individual level is also highlighted by trip frequency distributions on a daily and weekly basis. The characteristics of the concessionary schemes in terms of fare type, times applicable and geographic coverage are discussed and the relationship between these and bus travel and concessionary pass holding is examined.

The analytical part of the study estimates econometric models for trip rates, distance travelled by bus and concessionary pass-holding on an individual level. The explanatory variables included in the model include the characteristics of the concessionary scheme (fare, geographic coverage and time applicable), the characteristics of the individual (age, gender, household type, licence-holding and car availability), and the characteristics of their areas of residence (accessibility and frequency of bus service, conurbation size and population density). The results show that the substantial decline in bus trip rates over the past years is nearly entirely explained by increasing car ownership and licence holding amongst the over-60s. The introduction of free bus travel has reversed this trend. According to the model, the free travel scheme had increased trip rates by 26.5% in the Mets and 45.4% in the Shires by 2008.


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