Posted by: barbaraneill | November 26, 2011

When is a Bus Pass Not a Bus Pass?

In Maidstone there is an excellent ‘Park & Ride’ bus service, in which car parking is provided, free of charge, in a number of locations on the outskirts of the town. A subsidised bus service then runs from these car parks into the town centre, thus reducing the amount of traffic in the town.

I’m a great supporter of the Park & Ride service and like to use it when I can. As a full fare payer, it costs me a nominal £1.50 for a return ticket, provided I travel after 9.30 am. Before 9.30, it would cost more.

One of the privileges offered to people of pensionable age in the UK is a free bus pass, enabling them to make certain journeys for free, provided they show their bus pass. The Park & Ride service is included in this concession, as long as the passes are not used before 9.30 am. I hadn’t really seen any problem with this until yesterday.

I arrived at one of the Park & Ride car parks, with my Mum who has a bus pass, to see a bus already waiting at the stop. About 2/3 of the seats were empty, as there was just a handful of passengers on the bus. There was also a long queue of people, (all bus pass holders), waiting at the stop because it wasn’t quite 9.30 and they “weren’t allowed” to get on the bus.

The official representative from the bus company offered the following explanation: “Unfortunately, we can’t let them on the bus because their passes aren’t valid until 9.30 and, if we were to let them on, the other passengers would be unhappy about having to pay, while the pensioners make the same journey for free.”

The next bus arrived very soon after this but, by the time everyone had got on, it was so packed that there were about seven or eight pensioners having to stand.

I find it hard to believe that we have sunk so low, that any of us would begrudge a pensioner, with a bus pass, a seat that would otherwise be empty. Isn’t it time there was a little less adhering to bureaucracy and a little more common sense and decency?

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