Pensioners to wait another five years for bus passes

Caroline Cassidy

Despite having introduced bus passes for the over-60s just three years ago, a Government rule change will mean that pensioners may be forced to wait an extra five years before they can claim free travel. The concessionary passes were introduced in 2007 and are currently used by around 11 million Brits. But those approaching their landmark 60th birthday will soon have to wait another five years since Chancellor Alistair Darling managed to slip the rule change under the radar via last autumn's Pre-Budget report.

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As it stands, both men and women are entitled to free bus travel as they reach the retirement age for a woman. But since the European Court ruled that by April 2020, women will be forced to work until 65 as men do, neither will be on the buses until they hit 65.

Though the change is being introduced on a sliding scale, those who turn 60 in 2015 will not get a concessionary pass until 2020.

Critics say many older people will then struggle to get to medical appointments or travel to see friends and family. Emma Soames, editor of Saga magazine, accused the Government of being "very sneaky".

"It should have been properly advertised," she told the Daily Mail. "It is a reasonable thing to do - people who are working can pay their own bus fares, and we are in a recession. But when people retire they should have bus passes. This has been very badly handled."

The delay in handing out passes will save the Treasury in the region of £1 billion over the course of the next five years.

But should the rule change have been better publicised and does it pave the way for an end to the free OAP bus pass?