§ Mr. McNulty
In England, there are six areas where pensioners (men aged 65 and over, women aged 60 and over) are offered free concessionary travel on local bus services. These are the London boroughs, Merseyside, West Midlands, Crawley, Reading and Redditch. We estimate that 1.8 million pensioners are eligible for free bus travel in these areas. The remaining 7.3 million pensioners in England are entitled to at least the statutory half-fare minimum requirement on bus services, though local authorities can offer more generous schemes and many provide concessions between half fares and free travel, such as flat fares. Some authorities offer the choice of free travel with a charge for the annual concessionary travel pass as an alternative to the statutory minimum half fare with a free annual pass. Some local authorities offer free travel to older age groups, for example, those aged 75 and over. Some local authorities also extend their concessionary fare schemes to cover other forms of public transport—including the free schemes in the London boroughs, Merseyside, West Midlands and Crawley.
From 1 April 2003, concessionary fares became available to men aged 60 to 64, bringing them into line with women of the same age. This includes 230,000 men who live in the six free travel areas, though West Midlands PTA is now providing half fares to men and women who reach their 60th birthday on or after 1 April 2003, who will not receive free fares until they are 65. A further 940,000 men live in other areas where at least half fares or better, are available.
Figures are based on Office for National Statistics 2002 population estimates.
§ Mr. McNulty
We do not intend to change the current arrangements for providing local authority concessionary travel for pensioners. The statutory requirement for concessionary fares ensures an equitable minimum level of half-fares on local buses, with a free pass for all pensioners in England. This minimum requirement was introduced in 2001 and has benefited many people where previously there was no scheme at all, or a scheme that offered less than half-fares. Above the minimum requirement, it remains for local authorities to make more generous provision, at their discretion and in the light of their own financial priorities and local circumstances.
From 1 April 2003 men aged 60 and over have benefited from existing schemes in their area.
§ Mr. Jim Cunningham
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will estimate the cost of providing free off-peak travel for pensioners. 1237W
§ Mr. McNulty
[pursuant to his reply, 29 January 2004, Official Report, c. 468W]We have made no estimate of the total cost of providing free off-peak travel for pensioners on all forms of public transport. However, we estimate that the additional cost of providing free travel on all local bus services for pensioners would be more than £300 million per year. This does not include the costs of free travel on other forms of public transport. Local authorities in England currently spend around £500 million per year on concessionary travel for all men and women aged 60 and over, disabled people and in some areas, children, on all forms of public transport including, as well as buses, London Underground, other metro and tram systems, some national rail services and ferries.