House of Commons Library

Concessionary bus fares

Published Wednesday, July 15, 2015

This note explains the legislation covering concessionary bus fares in England. It briefly summarises the positions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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There are two types of concessionary bus fares – statutory concessions (i.e. those which local authorities must provide in accordance with national legislation) and non-statutory, discretionary concessions (i.e. those which local authorities can provide from their own funds if they so wish).

The basic statutory concession in England provides for free bus travel for older and disabled people during off-peak times. The eligible age for the concession is rising to 66 by October 2020 and currently stands at around 62.5 – your entitlement to the concession will depend on when you were born. 

Local authorities may provide further concessions in accordance with their local priorities – these extend only to the local authority area borders, unless a cross-border agreement has been reached with a neighbouring authority. For example, in London and other major cities, there is often concessionary travel on other modes of transport, and travel during peak hours. Taken together, the statutory and discretionary bus concessions cost approximately £1.17 billion per annum.

There has been an ongoing debate about whether the bus pass should be means tested for wealthier pensioners. The two main parties and the Liberal Democrats committed to protecting the free bus pass for older people in their 2015 manifestos. However, supporters of all three parties recommended that they look at means testing so-called ‘middle class benefits’ such as the bus pass after the election.

Information on rail concessions can be found in HC Library briefing paper SN1904.

Commons Briefing papers SN01499

Author: Louise Butcher

Topic: Buses

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