A new pass that will give older and disabled people free off-peak bus travel across England from 1 April has been unveiled.
Currently, people aged 60 and over and eligible disabled people are entitled to free off-peak bus travel in the council area they live in. But from April, the government will invest up to an extra£250m each year to extend the scheme to include off-peak local bus travel anywhere in England.
‘Smart cards’ to reduce fraud
The new passes will also incorporate ITSO 'smartcard' technology to boost the roll out of 'smart ticketing'.
This will help minimise fraud and ensure that the number of journeys made by pass-holders are accurately recorded for reimbursement purposes between councils and bus operators. In areas where buses are not yet fitted with smartcard readers, the cards can still be shown to the driver as a traditional 'flash' card upon boarding.
Transport secretary Ruth Kelly said: "We hope that allowing eligible passengers to use their passes across local boundaries will continue to encourage even more people to get the most from the bus services available across the country.
"By introducing smartcard technology from the outset we are paving the way for full smart ticketing across the country. This would speed up boarding, cut fraud and open up the possibility of using the same pass to access a range of other local services such as libraries and leisure facilities."
Steven Salmon, director of policy development at the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, added: "The government's decision to make the passes 'smart' could help councils and operators to offer fast, friendly and efficient services for everyone."