Executive Summary

Executive Summary


Research Resource and ODS Consulting were commissioned by Transport Scotland to undertake customer research into the Concessionary Travel Card Scheme. The research involved a large scale telephone survey and a series of focus groups with people who had a range of different needs. The aim of the research was to obtain information on:

  • current use of the NEC;
  • views of the administration and management of the NEC
  • misuse of NEC's;
  • value of the NEC; and
  • overall satisfaction with the National Entitlement Scheme.

The telephone survey was undertaken with 3,127 NEC card holders and companion NEC holders. A sample was drawn from the Concessionary Card's contact mailing list of those who had ticked the 'data sharing box' on their application form. Quotas were set on the basis of card type and by Local Authority to ensure that the data was robust and representative of the overall population.

Eight focus groups were undertaken with NEC holders across Scotland. The aim of the focus groups was to explore the views of the National Entitlement Card scheme in depth, to supplement the telephone survey. A total of 66 participants attended the focus groups which were spread across a mix of locations and also included a range of people with different experiences and backgrounds, in addition to age and disability.

This executive summary highlights the key findings from this programme of research.


Satisfaction was extremely high with regards to the Concessionary Travel Card Scheme with almost all survey respondents being very or fairly satisfied with the scheme overall. This was reiterated in the focus groups where participants were in general highly satisfied with the card and all aspects of the scheme.

Satisfaction with the scheme was further explored at the focus groups where participants were asked to rate various aspects of the scheme. All participants gave high scores, with the exception of some wheelchair users who felt that the bus driver's lack of disability awareness had a negative impact on their experience.

Application and Administration of the Scheme

The application process was well received with 83% of survey respondents stating they found the process of applying very or fairly easy. Focus group participants did not report any problems in terms of the application process. However, one participant with a visual impairment commented that the application form was not easy to complete because the boxes were too small.

Similarly, the renewal process was thought to be easy with 63% of those who had renewed their card stating they found the process very or fairly easy, 2% stating it was neither easy nor difficult and 3% stating it was very or fairly difficult. The remaining 33% of respondents could not remember. Focus group participants had mixed views on whether there should be the opportunity to renew the photograph. Some people liked that they did not have the hassle of getting another photo, while others did not like that their photograph was out of date.

The deaf focus group participants did have some strong views about the renewal process. They were dissatisfied that they had to reapply, given they had a 'permanent, lifelong condition' and they were also required to attend a hospital appointment to have a test that proved their level of hearing loss. These participants felt that this was unfair and inconvenient.

Only 8% of survey respondents had visited the Transport Scotland website and only five participants from the groups said they had accessed it. Of those who had used the website, 90% said the information on the website was very or fairly helpful. One comment from a focus group participant with visual impairments indicated that the site however, was not easy to navigate.

How the card is used

The research identified that most people used their NEC for bus travel with 86% of respondents stating they use their card in this way. This was substantiated in the focus group findings where most people used their NEC for bus travel and this included local buses as well as intercity buses.

In terms of the frequency of use, 4 in 10 respondents said they used their card for bus travel at least 4 times per week. This was less likely to be the case in the HITRANS Regional Transport Partnership area where NEC holders stated that they used their card less frequently.

There was no real consistency in the times of day when the NEC was used with 48% of respondents stating that there was no main time of travel or that the times of day that they travel varies. However, 38% of respondents stated they used the NEC late mornings between 9am and 12 noon.

The survey revealed that the main reasons for travelling when using the concessionary travel card were for shopping, leisure and attending medical appointments. This was confirmed at the focus groups with participants stating they used their NEC for a number of different types of journeys. In particular focus group participants cited shopping, visiting friends and family, as well as attending hospital or medical appointments as the main reasons for travelling with their NEC.

With regards to the distance travelled, 19% of respondents said they use their card for local travel, travelling less than 5 miles, 39% used their card to travel between 5 and 25 miles and 19% used their card to travel 25 or more miles. Furthermore, 17% of respondents said that the distance they travel varies and 7% said they did not know or could not remember. At the focus groups some participants had used their card to travel outwith their own local authority area, for example taking day trips to cities such as Glasgow or Edinburgh from Aberdeen, Inverclyde or Stirling.

Most survey respondents said that they would state their destination to the driver as they boarded the bus (83%). During one focus group with five older participants it was felt strongly that stating the destination was necessary in order to cut down on, what they believed, was the fraudulent recording of journeys by the bus company, in order to claim more money from the Government. During discussions in four other focus groups, twelve participants commented that their ticket did not always reflect their destination, but this was rarely challenged.

Of those who said they did not show their photo, 16% said that the driver would ask to see their photo. Very few focus group participants said that they were asked to show their photograph on their NEC when boarding the bus. The only group who were routinely asked to show their cards were participants in the deaf group. These participants believed that because they did not 'look disabled' and their card had no identifier to state they were deaf; the drivers thought they were fraudulently using someone else's card.

The majority of survey respondents and focus group participants were not aware of any examples of misuse. The survey revealed that awareness was low regarding being able to report abuse of the scheme to Transport Scotland's helpline with only 26% of survey respondents being aware of this.

Benefits of the scheme

Survey respondents were asked about what they believed were the most important aspects of the Concessionary Travel Card scheme and which one thing was most important to them. Just under 1 in 4 respondents said that the main important aspect of the scheme for them was the financial savings with 39% stating this was most important to them. This was followed by giving the individual independence or freedom (20%), allowing the respondent to get out of the house (14%) and allowing the respondent to get to places that they wouldn't be able to park their car (14%).

The focus groups explored the benefits of the scheme in more depth to further understand what aspects of having a NEC were most important to them. Financial savings were mentioned by every group as being a key benefit of the scheme. Some participants said that they had made considerable savings by travelling with the NEC.

Equally the financial savings were a motivating factor for travel as the bus was free to use. This was thought to be particularly good for older people who then did not need to worry about the cost of travelling.

Other benefits of the scheme, mentioned spontaneously during all eight discussion groups was the ability to get people 'out and about', which was thought to reduce social isolation and keep older people active. Young disabled people mentioned having increased confidence and independence as a key benefit of the scheme.

The card was thought to have made a difference to people's health and wellbeing in that it encouraged people to be active, without the worry of paying for travel. Eight participants across five groups suggested specifically that without the card, their health would suffer as a result of not being out and about. Some suggested that without the card they would not be motivated to go out as much.

It was also suggested that the NEC scheme had helped to contribute to a reduced need for health services as older people are more inclined to be out of the house and keeping active, because of the card. This was mentioned spontaneously in two focus group discussions held with older participants.

The card also encouraged people to travel more widely than before, exploring parts of Scotland they would not otherwise have accessed because of the cost of getting there.

The NEC was also considered important for the future. Both older and disabled participants agreed that the card would become more important to them as they aged and they believed they would come to rely on it more to keep them active.

For some disabled participants, driving a car was not an option for them because of the extent of their disabilities. These participants said that the card would be their means of travelling independently.

Without a card, people described their circumstance as being poorer financially, with worse health and less confidence to be out and about.