An initiative aimed at encouraging more people to make use of their free bus pass has been launched by Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council, in partnership with local bus operator morebus.
The ‘It’s Free to go by Bus’ campaign, which has been launched alongside the government’s ‘Take the Bus’ initiative, aims to promote bus travel to concessionary passholders by showcasing the financial, social, accessible and sustainable benefits.
Statistics show that national concessionary journeys have reduced by 36 per cent since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The figures suggest many people have not returned to using bus services since being warned away for health reasons in early 2020.
With the ongoing cost of living crisis forcing many into financial hardship, the initiative seeks to encourage people to explore new places, go out for the evening with friends or visit family, for free.
The campaign also highlights the environmental benefits of buses: one double-decker can take 75 cars off the road, helping to reduce congestion and carbon emissions.
Catching a bus with an approachable driver and other passengers can be an excellent social opportunity for those struggling with isolation, whilst low floors, wheelchair access and clear audio and visual cues throughout the journey help to ensure bus travel is a suitable option for all.
Councillor Andy Hadley, Portfolio Holder for Climate Response, Environment and Energy at BCP Council, said:
“We are proud of the bus service on offer to residents in the conurbation, which thousands of people rely on every day to meet their work, educational and social commitments.
“This campaign looks to promote its value further and, during such challenging financial times, we hope it will enable people to save some money as well.
“Running a car can be expensive, both financially and environmentally, but by getting the bus, you will help protect our coastal resort and preserve it for future generations.”
Andrew Wickham, Managing Director of Go South Coast, the business behind morebus, added:
“Our drivers are very experienced at helping older customers who may need a little extra support, and we welcome everyone on board.
“We are very aware that, for some customers, the bus driver is the first and sometimes only person they get to speak to in a day.”
Operating a range of services throughout the region, morebus links Bournemouth, Poole, Ringwood, Blandford, Wimborne and Swanage.
Anybody of state pension age (66 or over), or those with a qualifying disability, can apply for their free bus pass online. If you need support with your application, or cannot complete the online form, contact the Council’s Road and Transport team on 01202 123 700.
Julian McLaughlin, Director of Infrastructure at BCP Council, commented:
“Bus travel continues to be one of the most efficient methods of transportation in the conurbation and we are constantly working alongside morebus to tailor operations to the wants and needs of our residents and visitors.
“If you are of state pension age, or have a qualifying disability, we strongly encourage you to consider applying for a free bus pass, which will allow you to travel for free and use your money for more enjoyable things, such as exploring the Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival this year.”
The Department for Transport’s £2 fare cap has also been extended until the end of October, restricting the national cost of a single bus fare as part of the government’s ‘Help for Households’ initiative.
Any paying adult or concessionary passholder can also take up to two children aged seven or under onto the bus with them free of charge.