Using a bus pass in London

Bus Pass holders planning a visit to London ask us very frequently ‘Can I use my bus pass in London?’ to which our reply is always ‘Yes you can if your bus pass was issued in England’ and will have a red rose symbol on it.
English National Bus Pass Symbol






Complaints from Bus Pass holders having problems in London with passes issued outside London. These have been coming on to us for years and still continue – for details click here.

January 2017 – We have taken up with Transport for London the frequent complaints that the card readers on London buses do not recognise valid ENCTS cards used by bus pass holders from areas in England but outside London, and that drivers sometimes won’t accept them either.
London Bus Pass problems

In response to our complaints the Customer Service Adviser, Transport for London Customer Services has provided a copy of the relevant page from the ‘London Bus Drivers’ Guide’ which can be shown to drivers in case of difficulty. (see below)

We strongly recommend that you print a copy of this if you are planning a visit to London and plan to use your bus pass. London Bus Drivers Guide page114

instruction is on page 114 on the Bus Driver’s Guidebook which all bus drivers carry with them

instruction is on page 114 on the Bus Driver’s Guidebook which all bus drivers carry with them

(Click on the image above to get larger copy for printing)

NOTE: If you get a problem of this kind, it can be very helpful to note as many details as possible, bus service number, location, time and bus drivers number.

Please note that bus passes issued outside London aren’t accepted on the Tube, rail or ferry services in London. Why should that be ? Well the theory is that when the National Bus Pass scheme was brought out in 2008, local authorities received, and still receive funding to cover the cost [local councils will say 'Ah but not enough funding to cover the cost' - but that is another issue.] The English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS)provides for use of bus passes between 9.30 am and 11pm Monday to Friday, and anytime at weekends.
There are other options for saving on Tube fares in London, e.g.

Holders of bus passes issued in Merseyside or Greater London from age 60 (i.e. earlier than the ENCTS) should note that these passes cannot be used outside their home area – these passes don’t have a red rose symbol on them.

Further information about different conditions for using bus passes

In some districts councils have decided to improve on the ENCTS conditions by:

  • Extending the weekday hours – often by making the bus pass usable before 9.30 am e.g. Staffordshire & Greater London allow any time during the week.
  • Making the bus pass acceptable on local metro/rail services/tube e.g. Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Greater London

Where this has happened the extra ‘benefits’ are only available for residents of the area concerned, e.g. travelling on the Merseyside Metro system with a bus pass is only available to holders of Merseyside Travel Pass.

Further information on variations in bus pass schemes in different local authority areas can be found on our Local Variations page.

We hope this explanation helps, we didn’t make these rules, we are just trying to make them understandable.

If you encounter any difficulty getting your bus pass accepted we would like to hear about it – please use the ‘reply’ box below.

55 thoughts on “Using a bus pass in London

  1. John gillow

    Can older London residents apply for a national bus pass? If so, how and where do we apply?

  2. Hampshire Boy

    I’ve been using my Hampshire-issued concessionary pass on TfL buses several times a month for the past couple of years. I’ve always assumed that these passes aren’t Oyster-compatible, so I just flash the card at the drivers, and they have always accepted it without problem. I’ve never seen them register the transaction on the machine.

  3. Benjamin Dickson

    I have been to London over the weekend and stayed in Greenwich travelled to the Excel and into the city as I was running the marathon. None of the buses were accepting my Leicester City Blind bus pass. The drivers all overrode the system without the need for fuss!!

  4. Fred Robson

    We have recently written to a number of local newspapers on this, as we feel that this situation is totally unacceptable. TfL need to be shamed into doing something about it.

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