Mr Campbell said,
“As the Minister who introduced free travel for senior citizens (65+) in October 2001, I believe the provision of subsidised access to public transport is crucial in helping reduce social isolation and supporting people in accessing economic and educational opportunities.
Research conducted by the University of Glasgow indicates that access to free travel increases bus use and access to services among older people, potentially improving mobility, social participation, and health.
Figures I have recently obtained from Translink show that last year (2022) there were more than 9 million passenger journeys undertaken by senior citizens. Any abandonment of the scheme would result in a massive decrease in journeys undertaken on buses/trains thus creating a 'vicious circle' of reduced usage leading to the contemplation of reduced services etc. This would be a retrograde step of massive proportions in Translink’s viability for the future as well as the negative impact created in wider society.
The importance of the Concessionary Fare Scheme now also needs to be seen in the context of protecting the environment with the need to act against climate change and encourage, where possible, change from private car ownership to public transport. Improving access to public transport can encourage more people to travel sustainably.
Concessionary travel has a vital role in not only reducing social isolation and ensuring as many people as possible have appropriate access to educational and economic opportunities. More than nine million passenger journeys in a single year can't be wrong!
I would therefore urge that the Department protects this scheme.”