A recent UCL-led study found that older adults who own concessionary bus passes are likely to report better quality of life and fewer depressive symptoms than peers who do not have the benefits of free bus travel. It found that older adults with bus passes were also more physically active and less socially isolated than counterparts without bus passes.
And maintaining wellbeing is likely to help people stay physically healthy in later life, thus reducing the financial costs associated with an ageing population.
A study for Greener Journeys found that every £1 spent on the concessionary fares scheme generates at least £2.87 in benefits. Half of the benefits accrue directly and immediately to concessionary travellers themselves, around 20% of the benefits to other bus passengers and other road users from transport network improvements, and the rest to the wider community from wider economic and social impacts and in particular from improvements in health and wellbeing.
In locations where commercial bus operations are not viable, tendered services are often a vital lifeline to communities. However, funding for local authority supported bus services in England outside London has nearly halved in the past eight years and in 2017/18 alone nearly two-thirds of authorities reduced spending or spent nothing on supported bus services. This can leave people isolated and contribute to poverty, social exclusion and increased car dependence.
A key factor in delivering a wide range of bus services to communities is the provision by the Government of the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) in England. The House of Commons Transport Committee acknowledged in its report to Parliament that BSOG keeps fares 3% lower, service levels 6.7% higher and patronage 4.4% higher. It also enables operators to maintain services that might not otherwise be profitable. Studies consistently demonstrate that BSOG is an effective intervention which is very simple and efficient to administer, and which is becoming ever more important given the reduction in supported services by local authorities.