Letter to Grant Shapps – Secretary of State for Transport
Dear Mr Shapps,
Department for Transport Review of TfL
I am writing to you on behalf of Positive Ageing in London to protect concessionary older peoples travel for older Londoners in the forthcoming government review of Transport for London. TfL has already suspended free travel at peak times before 9am on bus and tube for over 60s and those in receipt of the freedom pass. Positive Ageing in London received many concerns from its members across London about the implications of this, not least the complete lack of consultation over this decision or any evidence cited.
80 percent of older people in London have concessionary travel which is a major benefit and any reduction or ending of this causes problems. Older people are reliant on public transport– access to a car is a significant problem for older age groups, cycling by older people is exceptionally low and walking long distances for many is clearly impossible. But there are other implications of any changes to concessionary travel:
• Paying full cost for travel during peak hours will cause financial hardship for many over 60s in employment, some of whom are in low paid jobs including occupying key worker roles.
• Those aged 60-65 are according to surveys least likely to work from home
• Older people have important caring responsibilities which they need to travel to including taking grandchildren to school.
• Other older people do have to travel during peak hours and require extra travelling time to attend medical appointments early in the morning. This new restriction may ironically hamper the need to get patients to attend hospital appointments which has significantly declined during the pandemic.
• Many active older people are volunteers working with charities and travel early in the morning for these roles. As we know much needed volunteering has dropped significantly since the virus which will lead to problems for the much-needed recovery of charities.
More generally there is evidence that concessionary travel does enhance the wellbeing and mental health of older people helping with physical exercise, independent living and reducing isolation. A lack of social engagement can trigger mental health problems and chronic illnesses, such as heart disease. These restrictions may well affect older Londoners propensity to use public transport in the future. Previously the most frequent reasons for not using public transport amongst those over 65 was that it is not convenient and does not go where you want, but now expense will be an issue if concessionary travel is cut.
We would urge the review to recognise the benefits of concessionary travel for older people in London and ensure it is not stopped or reduced.