Using a bus pass in London

Bus passes issued within England under the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS) are valid for use in London on London Buses.English National Bus Pass Symbol These passes have a red rose symbol on them.

Occasionally a bus driver may not be so clear on this point – based on messages we have received from bus pass holders (see below).

London buses do not now accept payment in cash for fares.

Under 11s can travel free on London buses and trams at any time whether accompanied with an adult or not. Children with a 5-10 Zip Oyster photocard can travel free on most National Rail services where pay as you go is accepted – for more information

We took up with Transport for London the complaints with acceptance of cards issued outside London by some bus drivers and card readers on London buses.

In response 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 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 page 114

Please help us to help others by giving your feedback on your experience (good or not so good) using a bus pass in London, but issued outside London.  Use the contact form below, and include please the issuing area  e.g Staffordshire.   No email addresses will be published.

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)

London residents equivalent of the Bus Pass is known as a ‘Freedom Pass’ which also enable them to travel on Tube, rail or ferry services in London, but bus passes issued outside of London are not valid for these other transport services.  London ratepayers pay for use of these additional transport services .

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.


70 thoughts on “Using a bus pass in London

  1. Fred Robson

    Sad that this keeps happening, which distresses people, and that Transport for Lonon’s systems aren’t properly set up. You did right to board the bus.

  2. Steve Ayres

    Driver on the 271 Bus route to Archway from Finsbury Square 08.10 am, refused to accept my Cornwall Bus Pass. His scan machine said card not accepted. I tried to reason with him that it is a national card and it is acceptable everywhere in UK. He said ”Are you trying to tell my job?” I said ”I am getting on this bus, you do what you like.!” As there was a lot of folks wanting to board I just took a seat and rode the bus. I was shaking though. He took no further action. Why are these drivers not educated and informed of such. This is LOndon not some backwater town. Supposed to be one of the most Teched up places in the world!

  3. Fred Robson

    We have taken up complaints once again with Transport For London who have replied saying:
    Our readers are ITSO encoded so it really depends on whether local councils who issue passes are issuing ITSO encoded cards and if they are that they have been configured to be read by our devices. If they cannot be read they should be shown for visual inspection by the driver. [Our comment: some instances have reached us of a bus pass holder not getting so far as to get their bus pass scanned on entering a bus]
    The Big Red Book issued to all London bus drivers details what tickets are and aren’t accepted and there is a section devoted to bus passes from other parts of England.
    To ensure our customers receive the highest level of service, we insist all drivers attend the ‘Hello London’ Customer Experience Training Program. We go to great lengths to ensure that bus drivers are trained to very high standards. Also, whilst receiving vocational training, drivers must then qualify for the Certificate of Professional Competence.

    Please keep us posted of any problems encountered by visitors to London.

  4. Raymond Clark

    I got on bus to Bounds Green and was told emphatically that my Lancashire now card was not valid.
    I had to use my debit card.
    As you may expect I was not very pleased.

  5. Alex Stock

    My card was refused on the 139 to Brixton from Streatham. The driver told me, very aggressively that it was not valid on London buses. Had grandson in pushchair with me so just got the next bus behind with no bother. My bus pass is from Hampshire and have had it for five years frequently using it London as my daughter lives there but have never had a problem before. Now have download page 114 will fight it out next time and just get on regardless, fowarned is forarmed!

  6. C McI

    We have recently used West Yorkshire issued concessionary passes on two London routes (6 and 14), without difficulty. We scanned our passes on the machine situated close to the driver at the entrance.

  7. Pingback: London Transport continue to embarrass bus pass users from outside London | Pensioners, Disabled & Bus Passes Blog

  8. Barb

    I’ve just found your blog, (Fantastic!!!) having just responded to an apologetic email from TFL.
    I’ve had my English National Concessionary pass for around 18 months through Hertfordshire and use it a lot in London. This year I’ve had to complain to TFL three times, twice about the same driver of a route 52 bus. After the first encounter, he reduced me to tears (this was my first experience of driver madness) shouting and railing at me, so I got off at the next stop. The driver on the 52 behind was really sympathetic and said he knew which driver I’d had problems with and that he clearly had a reputation for belligerence. He gave me the driver’s RUNNING NUMBER (always ask the offending driver for this). I complained to TFL and was assured he’d be called for an interview with this manager at Metroline. But then two weeks ago, I met him again on the 52 and he started on at me again. I had my letter from TFL but he didn’t want to know but I was not upset this time, just very exasperated, so told him to call his inspector and went off upstairs. He couldn’t do anything and had to keep going. Getting off, I spoke to him and took out my TFL letter, but he didn’t want to know and insisted I was in the wrong.
    Between these two meetings with this lovely driver, I was boarding a 27 bus on Chiswick High Street and was only one of two passengers on the bus. Again, the same old story, but this man exceeded the previous one in volume (physical and vocal!). Again I got off the bus at the next stop, but on the way off asked him for his running number, which he refused to give, so I took a photo of him. It was a bit blurred but clear enough to identify him, and I sent that with a letter to TFL.
    I’m getting to a stage where these encounters are conditioning me to feel apprehensive each time I board a London bus, although the first encounter was a shock, I’m now fore-warned. From now on, I will tell the offending driver to not only “Read this letter”, but “Refer to page 114 of your handbook”. I’m not one to be intimidated and will always rally for the underdog but when that underdog is me, my bark’s pretty loud! I might just get some copies of the handbook page printed off and keep them on me in case of another nasty driver encounter. Happy Travels to all, and stand your ground!
    For anyone who has been intimidated by aggressive drivers, I’d say YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT. Tell them to call their inspector and take your seat. The driver can’t throw you off as he / she has to get to their destination on time.

  9. John Paish

    Using a buss pass in London
    After all the complaints, it may be of some comfort to know that this sometimes works in reverse!
    When we moved back to my home town after living for many years in London, our London Freedom Passes still had a couple of years left.
    Many times, the local Midlands buses would query the pass validity, and my wife was twice accused of being “a rich Londoner taking advantage of the local Council Tax”, which made us laugh, as we moved away from the Capital because we couldn’t afford to live there anymore.

  10. Ms stacey Harris

    I have a over 60 senior oyster card but when i went to Hartlepool was not sccepted on theire buses i am now receiving pip so could i apply for a dissability pass thank you

  11. Fred Robson

    You could use your ‘now’ card to travel from Lancashire to London but that would be via a lot of buses and take a long time. As far as I know a now card can’t be used to book tickets on other transport.

  12. Fred Robson

    I>’m not quite clear whether yuo are a London resident or not, but if so the answer to your question is on this pg
    Freedom Pass information

    If you have a pass issued outside of London you may be restricted to the ENCTS conditions – 9.30 am – 11pm weekdays, any time saturday and sunday

  13. Terry barraclough

    Simple question but hard to get an answer( try it) are there time restrictions on my pensioners bus pass in london, i.e. Can I travel befor 0900 and can I use it on the night busses.

  14. John gillow

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

  15. 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.

  16. 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!!

  17. 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.

  18. Sally Patterson

    I visited London yesterday with my husband, and we attempted to use our bus passes on a London bus. We mistakenly tried to scan the card on the oyster reader as we got on, and it said ‘ Not valid for travel’. I didn’t realise and just walked down the bus, the lady driver shouted at me to come back, shouted at my husband, and told us we couldn’t use our cards. We tried to explain that we had valid national bus passes, but she shouted us down, was really rude, shouting, ‘Let me educate you’ so all the bus could hear. We tried to reason with her but she was so rude and abusive, we gave up and just got off the bus. We managed to get another bus, but it was upsetting and unnecessary and spoiled an otherwise good day. Why are th drivers not trained to know our passes should be accepted? I will complain to TfL as we were treated appallingly.

  19. Robin Brooking

    I have just been on the H37 bus from Blenheim centre towards Richmond and the driver told me my national bus pass was not valid, even when I showed him it was valid anywhere in England. It made me feel uncomfortable and embarrased. It is about time tFL instructed all their drivers of the situation.

  20. Fred Robson

    London don’t seem to issue companion/carers’ bus passes.

    Companions and carers will have to pay for their travel. which appears on
    London Fares & tickets

    An interesting situation would arise if a companion pass issued outside London is presented to the bus driver.

  21. Marcus O'Mahony

    Hi there,
    Nearly a couple of Fridays ago, I boarded the S1 outside Sutton Station where I was going back to Banstead with my carer, I had a problem. I had my free companion buss pass and I showed it to the woman and she was like, you can’t use that on buses, then me and my carer said you can use bus passes and she said not on this bus you can’t but I think I can. Anyways, the bus driver was very horrible about this and in the end, I had to use my oyster card which is a shame. I’m very scared about next time I would go on a bus so I am going to bring documents with me just in case this sort of thing happens again.

  22. Fred Robson

    Please go to our page /
    for a solution- there is a page provided to us by TFL which is a page from the busdrivers instruction book. Worth printing off a
    copy and having it with you.

  23. Carole Tavendale

    For years I had been using my Wiltshire issued bus pass in London but suddenly a few weeks ago the trouble started with bus drivers in London refusing to accept my pass. The first time I reported it to TfL and they were very apologetic and acted if this was an isolated incident! Since then invariably I have a problem which is very embarrassing and upsetting. Have just reported again to TfL and have been given a reference number. Hopefully this will be resolved. I intend to print out the sheet recommended, to show the driver if I get refused again.

  24. Peter

    I regularly use my Bucks issued ENCTS card in London without any problem. I just walk on holding up the card. The card readers are ONLY for Oyster and contactless.

  25. Patrick Roberts

    My wife and I have Nottinghamshire ENCTS bus passes and we used them several times last weekend on the TFL number 10 and 211 services. Each time the card reader on the bus did not recognise the passes so I showed them to the driver and we were allowed on to the bus. Is it not possible for the card readers to be re-programmed??

  26. Pat

    We have always on trips to London been asked to swipe our cards on buses and always been waved through but on a recent visit to London on a Wed evening pre 2100 my bus pass gave message “Invalid for this trip” whereas my partner’s said “Show to the driver”. The driver waved my partner through but started to tell me mine was invalid. I told him that it was valid and ran until 2019 so he didn’t press me for payment but it does seem that London bus drivers need to be educated in how to treat bus passes especially if readers are not able to recognise them which it seems they are not.

  27. Nora Johnson

    My Senior Bus Pass with ‘Red Rose’ issued in Hertfordshire was refused today, 29 August, in London on a No 170 bus running from Royal Hospital Road to Victoria Station. The card showed ‘invalid’ on the screen reader although it is in date until 31 December 2017. The driver insisted that I paid the full fare. Any comments would be appreciated.

    Many thanks.

  28. Mr B Ingram`

    Between 31/6/16 and 2/8/16. Myself and five of my friends went to London, as we have done for the last three years. The problem this year we were unable to use our “oap” free bus passes issued by West Midlands Authority, which we used without problems in the past. We were told we must buy an oyster card.
    WHY ?

  29. admin Post author

    Only London Freedom passes are valid on underground. Those issued outside London but within England are only valid on bus services.

  30. Martina Sheils

    Can I use my Surry CC Disabled Freedom Bus Pass on the London Underground ?

    I have been using it on the tube for the past month but my card was just refused at Heathrow Airport’s Underground Station.

  31. Kate Cowin

    Thank you for your info about bus passes.
    I have a senior railcard and will be visiting London in July. Can it be used to buy a cheaper Oystercard. If not, which is likely to be better value for 4 days tourism – an Oystercard or buying a tube ticket at senior’s rates

  32. admin Post author

    We have sent copies of this report and other recent ones received in March 2016 to TFL for their comments.

    If anyone encounters problems like these it will help if you can give as much detail as possible. especially precise times, route no, bus Number

  33. Michael Willson

    I have had this problem in London on route 142 coming back to Watford from Burnt Oak.I have the yellow band disabled pass.One driver said he hadn’t seen one before one nearly threw me off the bus,in london some drivers do not want to except this pass.Mine is issued in Buckinghamshire and told the driver this.

    TFL need to enable these ITSO passes on their oyster readers but do not look to be in any hurry,the driver normally pushes a button or similar on the machine.As route 142 operates outside grater London into Hertfordshire they should be aware of these passes but are reluctant,I have never had a problem between Watford and Burnt Oak however on the return journey there can be problems.

  34. admin Post author

    Not the 1st time we have heard this, but no excuse for this. If your card has the red rose symbol on it, it should be accepted in London and elsewhere in England

  35. carlos sanchez

    Some bus drivers are turning into despicable creatures.
    I was in Oxford Street, when the driver was collecting the money, and telling passengers that he will issue the tickets in “a minute”. He never did, and obviously pocketed the money. Driver was Eastern European.

    Two weeks ago, I was travelling from Esher, in Surrey on the 458 bus, to Kingston upon Thames.
    The driver charged a disabled 82 year old pensioner, giving a flimsy excuse. I suggested to the old Lady to report him, as she was rather shocked.

  36. Ron Metheringham

    I have just shown my bus pass issued in Cheshire on a london bus it was refused. Why was this

  37. KarlM

    Should national concessionary passes work with them smart card readers On buses in London? Mine doesn’t (but does work this way in yhe West Midlands). Not had a problem being waved onto their bus anyway as yet but I’m sure that day will come.

  38. P Roberts

    I have a merseytravel buss pass that I can travel to Chester on by train or bus. However I believe I cannot go over the border to Wales yet they can come into Chester(England) ??

  39. admin Post author

    To be eligible for a 60+ London Oyster photocard, you must:

    Live in a London borough and
    Be aged 60 or over
    With a 60+ London Oyster photocard you’ll be able to travel free on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail and most National Rail services in London.

  40. john

    My wife and I have had our OAP bus passes for some time now. After a while my wife’s card started to play up which she found embarrassing. She took it to the library in Godalming and it was replaced without question. Both our cards have the rose emblem.

  41. Kerfuffle


    DO NOT beep your ENCTS on the reader as they don’t beep. Londoners with Freedom Passes beep their cards on, and if theirs beep and go red, it means it’s been cut-off..

  42. JOHN

    What is a “Swoosh” scanner I plan to travel on my bus pass while in London for a week. It has a red rose and silver chip. Is the “Swoosh” on the bus.

  43. passuser

    Quote from Surrey County Council website:
    “Senior passes are valid at all times on Transport for London (TfL) services both within London and those crossing into and out of Surrey. These buses operated on behalf of TfL clearly display the red London Transport ‘Roundel’ logo.”
    Useful to know. Perhaps this applies only to passes issued by Surrey CC: not clear.

  44. Wojciech Simpson

    Can I use my disability bus pass on london buses with companion attached do we both get free travel my card was issued in york but not sure if conpanion is covered outside local area.thanks.

  45. Haydn

    Just returned to Suffolk from London. ENCTS card bleeped red on the swipe pad and driver (route 133) absolutely refused to accept that it was valid despite me explaining politely that it was. Most embarrassing. Ended up having to use my Oyster card or I would have been denied travel.

  46. Mrs Jane Cockerham

    I have an Oyster Card and a Bus Pass (England). Can they be combined?

    I am aware of when I can and can’t use each. Only thinking of having one card not two.
    Jane Cockerham

  47. Nigel

    I recently visited London and had cause to use one of those big red London buses. I simply showed my pass to the driver and we continued our journey fuss free. Yahooooooo

  48. Barbara

    What’s this about “spear-carriers” and the BNP? I suggest you use more neutral language otherwise you look like a bigot.

  49. ann channack

    I live just outside London in Surrey but to get to Kingston hospital we need to change at the central bus station in Kingston. A lady I meet on the bus didn’t know if her Surrey pass was valid on London buses before 09.30

  50. kerfuffle

    No Mike – in London ONLY Freedom Passes beep on the yellow readers in London. Those with ENCTS cards MUST present them as flash-cards, however, many of the drivers are not used to seeing cards that are non-Freedom Passes, and ask the holders to beep it. Of course it doesn’t beep and the driver thinks its dodgy (as if their Freedom Pass doesn’t beep then its been cut-off), So they must show them,

    These cards are valid, but most drivers in London are spear-chuckers that can’t speak English and just drive the route from A-B, In the ‘aggressive’ parts of London (say Plumstead and around Woolwich) where the 96 bus is likely to get a number of KCC-issued passes on the 96 they’ll just wave them on, andm to be honest you could have shown then a BNP membership card and they won’t bother looking….

  51. Mike Duncombe

    To Ian Fraser; All ENCTS passes (that is, passes issued on application to people over the current retirement age for women and certain classes of disabled people) have a contactless chip in them. So, if you are faced with a bus ticket machine in London, just present it to the “swoosh” symbol as if it were an Oyster card. The ticket machine will bleep, and you’re good to go! The DfT paid a vast amount to TfL to get them to upgrade their ticket machines to accept cards issued outside London, so you might as well use the facility.

  52. admin Post author

    Interesting question – the bus driver in London must have been in a good mood that day ‘cos we’ve even heard of bus drivers in London refusing English bus passes (which are valid in London) Bus Passes issued in Scotland or Wales aren’t actually valid in England.

  53. Ray Holden

    I’m a Londoner, now retired to S. Yorkshire, but still spending a lot of of time in London.
    I’ve had a S.Yorks ENCTS pass since they were introduced, an OysterCard, and an annual Senior Citizen Rail Card.
    As soon as I have a new Rail Card I take it a London Transport Underground Information Office and register it against my OysterCard.
    Benefit of doing this is enormous. It means I just use my Oyster on London Train services whilst still getting my 1/3 Rail Card discount; I also get the discount on the Underground, Overground etc, plus the daily cap on spending on Oyster.
    I use my ENCTS pass on London buses, and yes I have to show the card but I’ve never had any problems at all. Much of the time I stay just outside the London Transport area, in Surrey – but do my shopping in Kingston, as do most local residents. Both London Transport and Surrey buses service that route, and on the London buses we all have to show our passes.

  54. Ian Fraser

    I’ve posted previously about the new (driver not involved) situation in London and I’m grateful that you are taking this anomaly up with TfL. We are due to visit family in London next week and wondered if there was any new information.
    Thanks for your help.
    Excerpt from your main page : –
    “People who hold a bus pass issued in England can use their pass to travel on local buses anywhere in England. So someone living in Birmingham for instance who goes on holiday in Bognor Regis can also use his/her bus pass on local buses in the Bognor Regis area.”

  55. admin Post author

    We are taking this up with the Transport for London people, we have had other similar instances reported to us. You did the right thing in having your pass available and getting on the bus.

  56. Ian Fraser

    I recently traveled on buses in London and found no way to use my ‘pensioner bus pass’. The drivers are now no longer accepting money or looking at bus passes, as they used to do. All payments are made by a contact card reader. Obviously my pass has no such function. I’ve looked on the TFL websites and can only see age related cards for people who live in London. Not having an Oyster Card I just got on and felt rather awkward. Must add that I wasn’t challenged or asked for payment.
    Any advice would be appreciated.

  57. Mrs.B.Sharp

    My Husband and I have recently been to stay with Family at Feltham in Middlesex and neither of our Bus Passes seemed to work on any of the local buses. We were however, allowed to travel with the Bus Pass by the Drivers making us hold them up to show them our photo. It was quite embarrassing at the time and am still at a loss as to why this occurred.

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