Monday, 11 February 2013

Call for temporary bus passes to help elderly citizens

I have called on Scottish Government and Transport Scotland to investigate the viability of allowing local authorities to issue time limited temporary passes when elderly citizens who lose their concessionary bus pass.      This followed my assisting a local man in his nineties who had to wait around 10 days for a new bus pass when his original concession pass was lost.

The City Council does as an efficient job as possible in terms of getting elderly people replacement cards as quickly as possible but it nonetheless takes around 10 days for a new card to be in the elderly person’s hands because it’s a national bus scheme.    In a number of recent cases affecting local people, the elderly people waiting for their pass had limited financial means and were unable to use the concessionary bus scheme for around 10 days until their new pass arrived.    For very many elderly people, being able to use the bus is a lifeline for shopping, social activities and meeting friends and family.

I made the point to Transport Scotland who administer the concessionary scheme that, in the case of elderly people who lose their pass, would it not make sense to allow local authorities to issue a temporary pass/letter that is time limited to allow the elderly person to use public transport whilst awaiting their replacement pass?   This would make a great deal of sense.

The response from Transport Scotland is as follows:

“The Scottish Government provides Scotland-wide free bus travel on the basis of presentation of a valid National Entitlement card. This card is required in order to confirm a person’s entitlement and in order for the bus operator to be reimbursed accurately for the journey undertaken.  The card itself, which is printed and encoded at a central production bureau, and not a local authority office, contains a photograph of the cardholder, expiry date and confirms their entitlement.

Where a valid card is presented but does not work on the Electronic Ticketing Machine (ETM) on the bus, there is the option to hand over the card to the bus driver in return for a 7-day temporary pass. The card is then returned to Transport Scotland, to ensure there is an audit trail for the issue of the paper based pass. 

Where a card has been reported lost or stolen there is no provision for temporary passes or letters to be issued and there are no current plans for this to change as this could potentially increase the risk of fraud. There is a service level agreement in place between local authorities and the card production bureau which stipulates that a replacement National Entitlement Card will be despatched within approximately three working days following receipt of a replacement request having been made.  Our experience of this process causes us to believe this schedule is routinely achieved.”

In reality, elderly people wait up to ten days for a new pass given that they are actually produced in Hull and posted from there to the customer.    A temporary letter with a clearly indicated expiry date would not be susceptible to fraud if appropriate administrative arrangements were put in place and it strikes me that there is a real need for Transport Scotland to address the issue.