It is our view that Nick Clegg’s mention of the issue of means testing the issue of bus passes could probably cost more than it saves. Why?
- The cost of bus passes is not a standard cost per bus pass, it depends on the number of journeys made, and the better off, with their own transport will certainly be making far less use of their bus pass.
- Of those entitled to a bus pass we understand that only 75% have actually got one. We don’t have statistics on the income groups of those who don’t hold a bus pass, but it is very likely indeed that those who don’t need to use public transport predominate in the ‘don’t have a bus pass’ group.
- The cost of setting up and policing a means testing system would, taking account of the above outweigh the cost. Undoubtedly those who don’t use their bus pass much would tell the local council where to put the bus pass, which would save the council very little.
We believe the above to be true of bus passes across the country, but the situation is different in London. The value of a London ‘Freedom Pass’ which also includes Tube and rail travel must be much greater, with many Tube journeys for instance costing £5 or more per journey. Added to that the problems of driving in London, plus the cost of the London congestion charge (£10 per day) means that the cost of a Freedom Pass to Local councils in the London area must be much greater. We note that in The West Midlands consideration is being given to making people pay for use of tram and train services, which is currently available to bus pass holders. see http://www.blog.freebustravel.co.uk/?p=4890
It may sound that a plea is being made here for the better off, but our belief is that the bus pass benefit should not be tinkered with. Personally the writer isn’t so lucky as those with a bus pass in urban areas, in this country area buses are very infrequent, and there are no tram or train services to use, so a bus pass is not a major benefit.