Bus pass scheme 'vital for economy'
The national bus pass scheme for older and disabled people is vital to keep Britain's economy and society moving, according to a report.
Every £1 spent maintaining concessionary travel on buses generates more than £2.87 of benefits for society and the wider economy, said the report commissioned by sustainable travel promoter Greener Journeys.
The report found the bus pass scheme enables older and disabled people to have fuller and more-efficient access to the services they need, and to take part in activities that would not be affordable without the pass.
From professional services company KPMG LLP, the report said the scheme meant older people:
:: Can contribute more actively as volunteers. If the concessionary scheme were to be taken away, some £297 million worth of annual volunteering benefits could be lost;
:: Are more physically active, resulting in improved health and wellbeing with knock-on benefits for health services. These benefits are worth an estimated £458 million annually;
:: Make fewer journeys by car, meaning air is cleaner and roads safer and less congested. Together these benefits are worth an estimated £175 million a year;
:: Underpin and improve the rest of the bus network. When more people use the bus, operators need to provide additional services, making buses more frequent. If the concessionary scheme were to be taken away, some £447 million worth of benefits to other bus users could be lost.
The report said other benefits were di fficult to quantify, meaning the actual overall boost to the UK economy will be significantly higher than £1.7 billion.
It said that the bus pass enabled older people to feel less isolated which was good for mental health and wellbeing.
They were also able to look after children and care for others, shop more on their high streets and travel independently.
Greener Journeys chief executive Claire Haigh said: "It is absolutely crucial that the next government, and its successors, safeguard the concessionary travel scheme.
"Any cuts to funding would mean the UK not only loses out on billions of pounds of economic benefits, but that older people would be isolated from society and their communities."