15 April 2024

Campaign focus: Making transport accessible

Decent and affordable public transport is a vital line of support for older people, enabling them to retain their independence. Yet lack of access to public transport can have a significant impact on quality of life.  For us, public transport isn’t just about the number of buses or trains it is also about ensuring that the services that are there are accessible and easy to use for those people that rely on them.

Increasing, or at the very least, maintaining the number of public transport routes isn’t enough, we need to ensure that these buses, trains or trams are accessible, that those that need and want to use them are able.  We would like local authorities to have a statutory requirement to provide and maintain minimum standards of accessibility for older people to a supported bus network, in addition to adequate assistance for older people on buses, trains and at stations. Wider accessibility of railway services is also an issue.

Accessibility goes beyond being physically able to board a bus or a train, the move over the past decade to more a digital-first approach to ticketing is so wrong, and strongly oppose the closure of railway station ticket offices.

We oppose any closure of ticket offices; this would have severe consequences for those who cannot get online to buy a train or plan a journey, discriminating against them by removing their access to travel, or their ability to benefit from better priced ticket deals. Simplicity and ease of use is a key consideration for older people.

There is a marked difference in how concessionary bus passes can be used. In England, they are only valid on local buses with limited concessions allowing travel to locations across borders. In contrast, those  issued in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales generally allow full access to public transport across the country.

As part of our wider transport campaign we are asking for the government to transition to a nationally administered travel pass system for pensioners, which can be used on all forms of public transport – buses, coaches, rail and tram, as part of the Inclusive Transport Strategy. These policies would incentivise older people to travel, both locally and nationwide.

Travel provides social benefits, allowing older people to attend medical appointments, access shops, and meet with friends and family, thereby combatting loneliness. Travel further brings economic benefits to the UK economy.  As covered in our last article, evidence from the Campaign for Better Transport suggests that the average concessionary bus pass is used over 100 times a year, with the consultancy KPMG finding that each £1 spent on concessionary bus fares for older and disabled people generates £3.80 in economic benefits.

Local transport authorities and decision makers should work with transport operators and providers to improve the physical accessibility, safety and reliability of journeys as a whole. This must cover infrastructure including railway and bus stations, as well as rolling stock and bus fleets. Older people should be able to travel from their homes to their destination using accessible public transport.

As Later Life Ambitions we are calling for: Increased investment in local bus and rail services, for uprated concessions, and for improved accessibility and assistance for older people on all new bus and railway stock and facilities.

Campaign activity: Transport


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