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Response to Consultation Paper on Scotland-Wide Free Bus Scheme for Older and Disabled People By The Scottish Policy Group of The Scottish Region of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK)

The Institute is the professional body for the full range of people who are engaged in logistics and transport. This includes freight and passenger transport operators, government and local government employees, consultants and academics. The views expressed in this paper reflect those received from members of our Policy Group who have contributed. This response is limited to Question 1 dealing with general points relating to the proposals.

Question 1.
Free bus travel for older and disabled people provides considerable social benefits. Travel free rather than by payment of standard fares results in additional journeys being made and an additional length of journey for some passengers. The additional free travel which will be made available by the Scotland-Wide scheme will result in further additional journeys in both categories. By definition all additional journeys are generated by the Scheme and operators should not receive payment for any of them except where the additional travel results in additional costs for the operator.

Taking this into account payment at a rate of 73.6% of the average adult single fare appears high even if a reasonable profit element is included. This assumes that almost three out of four free concessionary travellers would continue to travel and pay the standard adult fare for the same journey length in the absence of the Scheme. Normal experience regarding fares elasticity makes this difficult to accept. To ensure there is general confidence that operators are no better and no worse off through taking part it would be helpful if the information, assumptions and calculations used to arrive at the figure of 73.6% were made available to the public. This should include previous surveys which have been referred to or surveys carried out specifically for this purpose. In addition it would be helpful to know the extent to which reference has been made to previous appeals against compulsory participation in concessionary travel schemes and their outcome relating to compensation payments as well as assumptions made regarding fares elasticities when determining the appropriate generation factors for other concessionary fares schemes.

The amount of up to £159m set aside for compensation payments in 2006-07 is high in the context of the Executive's overall transport budget; particularly when related, for example, to the limited wider financial support for bus services in Scotland and the budgets envisaged for the Regional Transport Partnerships. In view of the demands on the Executive for additional funds to enhance other aspects of public transport it is important to ensure that public funds are seen to be utilised in a manner which ensures operators are no better off due to participating in the National Bus Travel Concession Scheme.

The previous comments relate to our main area of concern. We welcome the decision that the scheme will be run by Transport Scotland. However the residual role for local authorities in dealing with rail and in some cases ferry and air services will be relatively limited. This could lead to inefficiencies and possible confusion and it is suggested that further consideration is given to how concessionary travel on modes other than buses might best be administered.

The proposal for a new Entitlement Card accords with intentions to expand use of such a card for other services in future. The electronic capability is also sensible but care will be required regarding the cards' introduction and availability to minimise possible confusion bearing in mind the characteristics of those who will be eligible for free travel. It is assumed there will be widespread advertising but this must be in simple terms with readily understood processes to obtain the card. It is hoped that you will find these observations helpful.


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