Bus Users UK, an independent group which champions the interests of bus and coach users and campaigns for better bus and coach services, says it is concerned by the findings of an Age UK report into the effects of cuts to rural bus services on older people.
Despite having free bus travel, the report points to growing isolation among older people as services are reduced and in some cases cut completely. Many older people in rural areas rely entirely on bus services to access healthcare, social activities, community events and shops, as well as visiting friends and family.
The report also concludes that reduced services mean that many people now face a fairly long walk to their nearest bus stop. Delays, cancellations, long waiting times and cold bus shelters add to the problem and make bus travel for older people even more challenging.
Gillian Merron, Chair of Bus Users UK said: “Older people in rural areas face the double challenge of having many services and amenities centralised in towns and cities that they now can’t access because they simply can’t get to them. It undermines the whole idea of providing free bus travel when there’s no bus to travel on.”
The AgeUK report calls for greater consultation on local services to ensure they meet local need.
Gillian added: “Free bus travel for older people has been a great success and has enabled the millions who use the concession to lead active lives. Older and retired people make a huge contribution to society, undertaking volunteering and providing vital childcare support to family members who wouldn’t otherwise be able to return to work.
“What this report proves is that when bus services are cut it isn’t just older people who suffer – we all suffer.”
Bus Users UK,which describes itself as ” the voice of bus passengers”, is an independent not-for-profit organisation that aims to improve bus services across the UK and get more people on board.