Call Made for an End to Freedom Pass Restrictions

Concessionary travel for older people still stopped in morning peak

Freedom Pass restrictions were introduced during the pandemicFreedom Pass restrictions were introduced during the pandemic. Picture: London Councils

The London Assembly has urged Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and TfL to remove temporary travel restrictions for older people imposed at the height of the pandemic.

In June 2020, TfL announced it would no longer allow passengers to use 60+ Oyster Cards or Older Person’s Freedom Passes during morning peak hours to “help conserve space on public transport” and aid social distancing for key workers.

But over a year later and with all social distancing measures now lifted, the London Assembly unanimously called on Sadiq Khan and TfL to remove the restrictions on Thursday.

Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon of the Liberal Democrats proposed the motion at City Hall and said the restrictions “must be lifted” or the mayor should provide “sound scientific evidence to continue penalising people over 60 years of age”.

Ms Pidgeon said, “The suspension of concessionary travel for 60+ Oyster photocard and Older Person’s Freedom Pass holders before 9am on weekdays was supposed to be only a temporary measure, yet it is still in place 15 months after it was first introduced and with no indication as to when it will be finally lifted.

“With restrictions on crowding and social distancing now largely lifted the arguments for the continued restrictions no longer hold up. It is time to stop penalising people over 60 who are in work, who need to travel to offer childcare to grandchildren at the start of the day, or who face morning health and hospital appointments.”

Londoners over the age of 60 are eligible to apply for a 60+ Oyster Card which allows entitles them to free travel on TfL services and some national rail services. Older Person’s Freedom Passes provide free travel in London and on bus services elsewhere in the country.

But since June last year, neither card can be used for free travel before 9am on weekdays.

TfL has said it is considering whether the changes introduced last year should be “retained in the longer term”.

A TfL spokesperson said: “Last year, the government required the Mayor and TfL to change the hours of the day when holders of the Older Person’s Freedom Pass and 60+ photo card could access free travel on TfL services. Instead of the passes being valid at all times, a new 9am start time was introduced, and this is still in place at the moment.

“As the pandemic recedes, we are now considering whether or not these temporary changes should be retained in the longer term, including taking into account both the impact on older people and the foregone income associated with providing free travel before 9am.”

Holders of both 60+ Oyster Cards and Freedom Passes are still eligible for unlimited free travel after 9am on weekdays and at any time on weekends and bank holidays.

Joe Talora - Local Democracy Reporter

September 3, 2021