Bus passes: What is happening with over-60s travel in NI? (2024)

ByRoss McKee,Abigail Taylor,BBC News NI

Bus passes: What is happening with over-60s travel in NI? (1)Bus passes: What is happening with over-60s travel in NI? (2)Getty

Free bus and train passes for over-60s are staying in Northern Ireland - but there is concern by some about a new fee for first-time applicants.

The fee, thought to be about £20, was announced by Infrastructure Minister John O'Dowd.

It came after a public consultation last summer, in which the Department for Infrastructure asked the public if eligibility rules should change.

For more than 15 years, Stormont has funded free public transport for all over-60s, regardless of their income, to alleviate social exclusion.

But since then, the cost of providing the service has risen significantly, as has the percentage of the population over 60 who qualify for a SmartPass.

Bus passes: What is happening with over-60s travel in NI? (3)Bus passes: What is happening with over-60s travel in NI? (4)

Margaret Nowotarski, 79, uses her free bus pass almost everyday.

"We find it very helpful, we can easily get the bus from Groomsport to Bangor and we never have to worry about parking or anything."

Travelling often to see family abroad, Margaret also uses her bus pass to get to the airport and "for a wee day out to Dublin".

Speaking about the fee for first-time applicants, she said: "I think the fee is reasonable for younger people, we were 60 when we first got it, but I think it is a reasonable fee, as long as it is free after that."

Her husband Andrew added that they had "worked hard all their lives" and they are "happy to make use of the free pass".

For Victor Murphy, the joint chair of trade union Unison's Retired Members' Forum, the pass' retention was a "good decision" but the application fee is not.

"We have the highest rate of pension poverty in the UK and quite a few will find it difficult to pay that,” he said.

“There should not be a fee."

Mr Murphy was one of a number of people who protested outside the Department for Infrastructure last year during the public consultation.

Bus passes: What is happening with over-60s travel in NI? (5)Bus passes: What is happening with over-60s travel in NI? (6)

“The passes bring benefits in terms of climate change and mental health – people are moving out of their cars and using public transport," he added.

The Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland, Eddie Lynch, said he was "delighted" the Smartpass for people aged over 60 had been retained, adding that it was "essential to support our aging population and keeping people active, engaged and healthy".

But how does Northern Ireland compare to other places in relation to free public transport for those 60 and over?

What is the situation in Northern Ireland?

Stormont Infrastructure Minister John O'Dowd has said application fees are to be introduced for people aged over 60 when they apply for a Translink Smartpass for the first time.

Over-60s are entitled to travel on public buses and trains for free in Northern Ireland, regardless of their income, and this system will continue.

But Mr O'Dowd has announced that a "nominal fee" will soon be charged to passengers making a first-time application for a Smartpass.

The one-off fee is expected to be about £20 for people aged 60-64.

A reduced application fee of about £12 will be charged to older passengers aged 65 and over as they qualify for a Senior Smartpass, the Department for Infrastructure said.

Bus passes: What is happening with over-60s travel in NI? (7)Bus passes: What is happening with over-60s travel in NI? (8)Getty

What is the situation in the Republic of Ireland?

The free travel scheme for public transport in the Republic of Ireland is available to:

  • Everyone who is 66 years or over and legally living permanently in the state
  • Certain people who are under 66 years and legally living permanently in the state, who meet certain conditions to qualify

The Irish government says the free travel scheme allows those eligible to travel, free of charge, on all public transport owned by the state. It says this includes bus, rail, Local Link and the Luas, with some exceptions.

It added that there are "currently no plans to introduce a fee for people entitled to the Free Travel Scheme within the Republic of Ireland".

What about England, Wales and Scotland?

In England, people can get a free bus pass when they reach the state pension age.

Those living in London, can travel free on buses, tubes and other transport when they are 60 years old, but only within London.

In Wales, people can get a bus pass when they reach 60 years.

In Scotland, those aged 60 or over, who are resident in Scotland are eligible for free bus travel with the National Entitlement Card.

Northern Ireland

Bus passes: What is happening with over-60s travel in NI? (2024)

References

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Otha Schamberger

Last Updated:

Views: 5895

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (55 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Otha Schamberger

Birthday: 1999-08-15

Address: Suite 490 606 Hammes Ferry, Carterhaven, IL 62290

Phone: +8557035444877

Job: Forward IT Agent

Hobby: Fishing, Flying, Jewelry making, Digital arts, Sand art, Parkour, tabletop games

Introduction: My name is Otha Schamberger, I am a vast, good, healthy, cheerful, energetic, gorgeous, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.