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24 October 2012
Figures out today show that the number of coach journeys taken by people aged 60 plus and the disabled is set to fall by almost one million by the end of the year.
The figures released today by National Express, the country's leading coach operator, show that the number of concessionary journeys has fallen dramatically from 2.9 million last year and is projected to be down by around one million journeys by the end of the year.
This is the first real test of the impact of last November's abolition of the Government's half price coach concession scheme for older and disabled people.
National Express replaced the scheme with its own version which only gives a fare reduction of a third with the one off purchase of a ten pound coach discount card.
Today's figures suggest the removal of the Government's higher discount has discouraged many older and disabled people from coach travel.
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said,
“We know many older people depended on the Government coach concession to get out and about and see friends and family or go further afield. It was an important way of making travel accessible and affordable which can help prevent loneliness and social isolation. But today's figures clearly show that abolishing the concession has made it harder for people to travel, particularly in these tough times.
“Many older people live in rural areas where there is often little in the way of public transport so, if they cannot afford to take coach journeys, many will have little option but to stay at home. It's very worrying because we already know that loneliness affects so many people in later life and research shows it's extremely damaging to people's mental and physical health.”
National Express has cancelled three routes since last November, it says, because of falling passenger numbers as a result of the withdrawal of the Government subsidy.
The withdrawn routes are:
Cromer to London
Chichester to London
These routes pass through rural areas and often offer the only means of affordable transport to older and disabled people.