National Express rues loss of coach concessions

Britain’s leading coach operator said there would be 1m fewer journeys in the first year since the government cut the grant to over-60s and disabled people

The abolition of concessionary coach travel has led to a dramatic drop in journeys taken by disabled and older people, National Express has revealed.

Britain’s leading coach operator said there would be 1m fewer journeys in the first full year since the government cut the grant which gave over-60s and disabled people half-price travel, out of 2.9m such journeys in 2011.

Despite National Express putting its own scheme in place, giving one-third off ticket prices with a £10 coach card, the company has concluded that the move “severely affected the affordability of travel for our senior citizen passengers”.

A spokesman said: “It appears people have been more price sensitive than we thought.” The dwindling numbers contributed to a difficult year for the company’s coach division.

Meanwhile campaigners called on the government to reconsider the cuts. Michelle Mitchell, charity director general of Age UK, said: “We know many older people depended on the government coach concession to get out and about and see friends and family or go further afield. It was an important way of making travel accessible and affordable which can help prevent loneliness and social isolation. But today’s figures clearly show that abolishing the concession has made it harder for people to travel, particularly in these tough times.

“Many older people live in rural areas where there is often little in the way of public transport so, if they cannot afford to take coach journeys, many will have little option but to stay at home.”

National Express has cancelled three routes since last November due to falling passenger numbers since the subsidy was withdrawn.

Richard Hebditch of the Campaign for Better Transport said: “The announcement from National Express demonstrates exactly what campaigners said would happen. By cutting support for concessionary travel, government is harming older and disabled passengers, while threatening the viability of coach services. The government should reconsider the cut in the light of this evidence.”

Gwyn Topham © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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