4. Using the card

4. Using the card


4.1 Respondents, both in focus groups and in the telephone survey, were asked about their usage of their Concessionary Travel Card and any problems they have had in usage.

Using the card to travel by bus

4.2 The vast majority of respondents said they used the concessionary travel card to travel by bus (86%). Analysis by transport area revealed that this was relatively consistent across all areas with respondents in the HITRANS area were only marginally less likely to use their card to travel on the bus (84% compared to 86% overall). It is also interesting to note 60+ card holders are as likely to use their card to travel on the bus aged 60-64 as they are aged 65+.

4.3 These findings are in line with the focus group findings where the majority used their NEC on buses. This included local buses as well as intercity buses.

4.4 Those who did not use the concessionary travel card to travel by bus were asked why. The main reasons were where the respondent did not travel by bus due to a disability which prevented them from doing so (46%) or where the respondent was still driving or preferred to travel by car (33%).

Table 4.1: Reasons for not using card to travel by bus
Q15 If not why not?
Base: n=429 No. %
Don't use public transport due to health/ disability 197 46%
Still driving/ prefer to use the car 142 33%
Use the train due to lack of bus service/ its more practical/ easier 24 6%
No need to use it 22 5%
Use taxis/ get lifts from friends 20 5%
There is no bus service where I live 17 4%
Try to walk everywhere as opposed to getting the bus 6 1%
Lost my card 5 1%
Don't like using buses 4 1%
Card expired 4 1%
Too afraid to travel by bus 2 1%

4.5 Analysis of why respondents do not use the card to travel by bus showed that respondents who had a Disabled or Visual Card were more likely to say that they did not use public transport due to their health or disability (65%) or used taxis or got lifts from friends (12%). Those who held a 60+ card were more likely to say that they were still driving or preferred to use the car (36% compared to 14% of those with Disabled or Visual Cards).

Problems experienced when travelling by bus

4.6 More than 9 in 10 respondents said they had not experienced any problems when travelling by bus. On the other hand, 5% said they had experienced a broken machine on the bus, 2% said their card wouldn't work and 1% said they had a problem physically putting the card on the machine.

Figure 4.2: Problems experienced when travelling by bus

Figure 4.2: Problems experienced when travelling by bus

4.7 A total of 33 survey respondents said they had a problem physically putting the card on the machine. Of these, 26 were Disabled or Visual card holders. When asked to explain the difficulty the majority stated that that their mobility or ability to use their hands was reduced so that either their carer or the driver would help them to put their card on the machine.

4.8 Focus group participants described the process of getting onto the bus with a NEC. The card had to be placed onto a reader to entitle the card holder to travel. Some older participants stated that the card reader was not always easy to use. One complained that it was hard to reach, while others said that the reader made a noise once it had been accepted, but that this was "barely audible" and they often had to ask the driver if it had been accepted.

4.9 The blind and visually impaired participants spoke of having to hand their card over to the driver to scan on their behalf.

"I can't find the scanner so I just give it to the driver, so I don't hold the queue up."

(Female, blind and visually impaired group)

"The driver takes it (NEC) for you and gives you a ticket. He asks where you're getting off and gives you the ticket."

(Male, blind and visually impaired group)

4.10 Similarly, some wheelchair users said that they gave their NEC to the driver while he set up the ramp to allow the disabled person access to the bus.

"If the driver gets out to get the ramp, I give him my pass and so I get on and get into the space and he comes back with the pass and the ticket."

(Female, physical disabilities group)

4.11 The participants with disabilities commented at length about the difficulties of physically getting on and off the bus. They had regular experiences of bus drivers not knowing how to use the lift or ramps, or having to prompt them to put the ramp out for them to use.

"If my carer comes on, the driver doesn't even acknowledge them and often they don't even get the ramp out for the wheelchair. My carer has to help me on by tilting the chair onto the bus - that's why I need two carers."

(Female, learning disabilities group)

4.12 Equally, there were many examples of disabled spaces on the bus being taken up by pushchairs or buggies, making it difficult for wheelchair users to physically access the space on the bus. Disabled participants perceived that the drivers gave preference to prams and buggies over a wheelchair user.

"I've been put off the bus in my wheelchair because a buggy is trying to get on. It's ridiculous - a buggy can close down, but not a wheelchair."

(Female, physical disabilities group)

4.13 Participants with disabilities were able to recount several negative experiences they had encountered with bus drivers, relating to the bus driver's lack of disability awareness.

"They speak to you in a voice that is not polite. They are nicer to the people who are paying. I think it's because of the way we are."

(Female, learning disabilities group)

"You've got to put your hand out for the bus to stop, which is really irritating, because I can't always see which bus is coming so sometimes I'll put my hand out, but it's not the bus I want - and the driver goes mental."

(Male, physical disabilities group)

4.14 Each group of disabled participants indicated their perception that the drivers' need to 'keep to a schedule' meant that disabled passengers did not receive a good service. For example, the blind and visually impaired participants said that despite handing their card to the driver to scan on their behalf; the driver still drove off before the blind person had the chance to find a seat.

4.15 Wheelchair users had also experienced the drivers' need to keep to a schedule while travelling with their NEC. This included instances of the bus driving past them at a bus stop while they were waiting to get on, or buses not stopping to let these passengers off once they were on the bus.

"There is a buzzer to get off. It's a different noise to alert the driver, but he forgets you're on and just carries on driving."

(Female, physical disabilities group)

"The drivers look down on you. They dread wheelchair users. They would rather drive on, or else they throw the ramp down."

(Female, physical disabilities group)

4.16 The deaf participants also commented on the lack of deaf awareness among bus drivers. One example recounted by a deaf participant was in relation to getting off the bus, and using the buzzer to indicate for the bus to stop. For example, they commented that there were sometimes no visual displays on the buses to show that the buzzer to get off has been pressed.

"The city sprinter buses have a bad attitude, especially if you want to press the buzzer to stop. There is no visual indication to say that you've pressed it. I can't hear the bell so maybe I might press it twice by accident, but this frustrates the driver and he thinks I'm being cheeky or annoying pressing it twice."

(Male, young, Asian deaf group)

They also discussed their difficulties in reading and understanding written English, as it is not their first language, as well as the obvious difficulties with audio announcements about a change to the service.

"There is a difficulty in communication. English is not our first language, so reading information is not ideal about the right (bus) times, when and where you're going and whether it's quicker to get a certain bus."

(Female, young Asian deaf group)

7 day pass

4.17 Of those who had a problem with their card (39 respondents), 16 said they handed over their card and got issued with a 7 day pass to allow them to travel before they received their new card. All 16 respondents who said they handed over their old card, said the process was explained to them clearly by the driver.

Showing identification

4.18 More than 8 in 10 respondents (83%) who travelled by bus with their concessionary travel card said that they show their photo to the driver when getting onto the bus. Analysis by area indicated that respondents who lived in the Swestrans (94%) were most likely to show their photo, while those who lived in TACTRANS (72%) and NESTRANS (74%) were least likely.

Table 4.3: Do you show your photo to the driver by RTP
Q20 Do you show your photo to the driver? (Analysed by transport area)
Base 2697 229 221 9 785 83 1114 256
Yes 83% 87% 74% 100% 85% 94% 85% 72%
No 17% 14% 26% - 15% 6% 15% 29%
Don't know 0% - - - - - 0% -

4.19 Those who said they did not show their photo to the driver (454 respondents) were asked if the driver then asks to see their photo. Only 16% of these respondents said that the driver asks to see their photo.

4.20 The majority of focus group participants stated that they had never been asked to show their photograph to the driver. Some said that the card was there, with the photograph on the reader should the driver wish to see it - but the perception was that the driver was not interested.

"The drivers don't pay that much attention...I have an old photo and they've never said anything."

(Male, young disabled group)

4.21 The only group who stated that they were 'always' asked to show their photograph were the deaf participants. This group was made up of participants aged 18-25 years. They believed they were asked to show their photograph because they did not look disabled - and because their NEC does not carry an icon to indicate that they are deaf (unlike the blind participants whose card carries an 'eye' icon). This group perceived that the drivers' thought they were fraudulently using someone else's card.

"I put the card on and they always ask me to take it out the wallet so they can see the photo matches - I think they think I've borrowed it from an old person."

(Male, young Asian deaf group)

Driver asking for destination

4.22 Only 8% of respondents said that the driver never asks them where they are going. The majority (72%) stated that the driver did not have to ask as either they always told them or they knew them and knew where they would be going. 12% said that the driver always asked where they were going and 5% said the driver asked most of the time.

4.23 Analysis by area reveals that the SESTRANS transport area had the highest proportion of respondents stating that the driver never checks with them where they are going (24%).

Table 4.4: Does the driver check where you are going by RTP
Q22 Does the driver check where you are going? (Analysis by transport area)
Base 2697 229 221 9 785 83 1114 256
They don't have to, I always tell them 69% 80% 59% 78% 47% 84% 82% 74%
They don't have to, they know me/ where I go 3% 4% 2% 11% 2% 6% 3% 6%
Always 12% 8% 27% - 12% 7% 11% 13%
Most of the time 5% 4% 8% - 8% 1% 2% 4%
Only occasionally 2% 1% 2% - 4% 1% 1% 2%
Never 8% 1% 1% 11% 24% - 1% 0%
Can't remember 1% 1% 1% - 3% - 0% -

4.24 Focus group participants had different experiences of discussing their destination with the driver. Most participants said that they would state their destination to the driver as they boarded the bus - without waiting to be asked.

"They will maybe ask you where you're going, but I usually just tell him before he has time to ask."

(Male, young disabled group)

4.25 One group of five older participants felt very strongly that passengers should state their destination to the driver. They believed that the bus companies were falsely registering journeys in order to "reclaim more money from the Government". This was based on their belief that the ticket issued by the driver did not always correctly state the start and end point of the journey.

"The driver puts it through terminal to terminal, instead of the actual journey."

(Male, older person's group)

"(Has anyone ever challenged the driver over the ticket?) Yes, I say 'no pal, that's wrong...and they say 'oh sorry' and give me another ticket, but I'm sure that ticket gets passed to the next person."

(Male, older person's group)

4.26 Four other focus groups discussed that their ticket did not always reflect the journey they had asked for. Some people justified this by saying that the journey prices are in 'stages' and the ticket destination shows the 'stage' of the journey at which you boarded the bus. Others believed this was a 'scam' by the bus companies.

"I took a bus to Port Glasgow but they gave me a ticket for Greenock. That is a dearer fare."

(Male, physical disabilities group)

4.27 Participants from the young, Asian deaf group stated that they were always asked for a destination by the driver. This caused frustration and stress for these participants as they were unable to communicate with the driver.

"With the old card, I just had to show the driver and it was ok, I was never asked for a destination, but now the driver always asks and I say 'I'm deaf' and I try to smile so I get a good response from the driver."

(Female, young Asian deaf group)

"It used to be you showed your card and you got waved on, now you're asked for a destination."

(Male, young, Asian deaf group)

Misuse of the card

4.28 Only 1% of respondents said they had seen or experienced abuse or misuse of the bus pass. The South West has the highest proportion of respondents stating they have seen or experienced misuse of the bus pass. When asked about the type of behaviour they had seen or experienced, in the main, respondents stated that they had seen younger people using the card as opposed to people aged 60+.

4.29 Just over one quarter of respondents (26%) said they were aware that they can report abuse of the scheme to Transport Scotland's hotline. Respondents who lived in TACTRANS area (33%) and HITRANS area were most aware of this (32%) and respondents in the Swestrans area least likely to be aware (17%).

4.30 The majority of focus group participants were not aware of any examples of misuse. It was suggested that different people "have different types of passes" and so it was difficult to tell whether someone was using a NEC fraudulently.

4.31 Three participants admitted to having more than one card. One had moved into a different local authority area and was issued with a second card. Two participants, on receipt of their original card, had registered it as lost, and were sent a replacement. The original card was not cancelled and could still be used. One participant said that this was a 'stand by' in-case he lost the first card, while the other participant had given the second card to friends to allow them to travel together for free.

"It's really easy to misuse it, they never check the photo."

(Female, physical disabilities group)

4.32 Some felt that the new card was much better and not open to misuse. There were examples of people stating that the old card and photograph could be "peeled back" and another photo inserted. Overall the perceptions of misuse were not high.

"It's unlikely to be abused because of the photo."

(Male, older person's group)

Other uses of the National Entitlement Card

4.33 More than a third of respondents (37%) said they had used their travel card for other things than bus travel. These individuals were asked what other uses they had for their travel card, with the majority stating they use it for train travel (69%).

Table 4.5: Other uses of National Entitlement Card
Q26 What else do you use your card for?
Base: n=998 No. %
Train travel 693 69%
Identification 161 16%
Library 90 9%
Leisure services 86 9%
Swimming 51 5%
Ferry 42 4%
Subway 4 0%
Coach travel 2 0%
Taxi card 1 0%

4.34 Analysis by aged revealed that respondents aged under 60 were significantly more likely to use their card for swimming and train travel. Aligned with this, Disabled and Visual card holders were also more likely to use their NEC for these activities.

4.35 Geographical analysis indicated that respondents living in the SPT RTP area were significantly more likely to state that they used their card also for train travel. Those living in HITRANS and ZetTrans RTP areas were significantly more likely to state that they used their card for Ferry travel.

4.36 There were differences in participants' awareness of the use of the card for activities other than travel. Two groups of older participants had the greatest awareness of using the card for other activities and had used it to access museums, swimming and the cinema at discounted prices.

"For entry into museums and art galleries."

(Male, older person's group)

4.37 None of the participants with learning disabilities knew of these additional benefits, and neither did the participants from the young Asian deaf group. Some older participants said that the additional benefits of the card "are not communicated well". This was thought to be because some older people are not frequent users of the internet and are therefore not picking up information about where to use the card. One group of older participants suggested that they had to find out for themselves about the additional benefits.

4.38 In some local authority areas, the card could also be used to give discounted travel on trains, and for some people this was their personal preference for travelling. Participants in Aberdeen noted that a separate rail card was required for discounted rail travel in this area.

"You have to pay for the train, but it's quicker than the bus."

(Female, young Asian deaf group)

4.39 Some participants had used the card to travel "on the boat". This referred specifically to short ferry trips to Dunoon or Rothesay, whereby once on the bus, card holders are not required to disembark and can travel "for free" to these locations. This research did not include anyone from the Western Isles where holders of the NEC are able to receive free ferry journeys to the mainland under the scheme.

"Once you're on the bus, you don't need to get off to get on the ferry."

(Male, physical disabilities group)

4.40 Other participants recounted their use of the card for dial-a-bus services, whereby a bus collects and drops-off passengers from their home address. Only recently had this service requested to see passengers' National Entitlement Cards.

Companion cards

4.41 Those who had a companion card (n=297) were asked how often they had someone travelling with them as their companion. Just under 4 in 10 of these individuals (39%) said this was every time their travelled, 24% said it was most of the time, 20% said some of the time, 4% said rarely and 4% said they never have a companion travelling with them.

Overall satisfaction with bus travel

4.42 More than 9 in 10 respondents (92%) expressed satisfaction in relation to their experience of travelling on the bus generally compared to 3% who said they were dissatisfied.

Figure 4.6: Overall satisfaction with bus travel

Figure 4.6: Overall satisfaction with bus travel

4.43 Whilst there are clearly very low levels of dissatisfaction, analysis by RTP area revealed that HITRANS and ZetTrans had the largest proportion of respondents stating they were very satisfied. On the other hand, those who lived in the NESTRANS (67%) had the lowest proportion stating they were very satisfied.

4.44 Disabled and Visual card holders were marginally less likely to be 'very satisfied' with bus travel overall than 60+ card holders (71% compared to 79% very satisfied).

4.45 Those who were dissatisfied (n=89) were asked to give their reasons for feeling this way. The main reasons given were by respondents who said the route or timing of the buses were inconvenient (17 respondents) , that buses were unreliable (13 respondents) , the accessibility of buses for those with a disability or mobility issues (13 respondents) and where buses were perceived as being old, dirty, unpleasant or uncomfortable to travel in (10 respondents).

Overall satisfaction with Concessionary Travel Scheme

4.46 Following on from this, respondents were asked how satisfied they were overall with the concessionary travel card scheme. Satisfaction was extremely high with 99% of all respondents stating they were either very or fairly satisfied in this respect.

Figure 4.7: Overall satisfaction with the Concessionary Travel Card scheme

Figure 4.7: Overall satisfaction with the Concessionary Travel Card scheme

4.47 The NESTRANS area had the lowest proportion of respondents stating they were 'very satisfied' when compared to other areas (84%). Again, respondents holding a Disabled or Visual Impairment card were less likely to state that they were very satisfied (88%).

4.48 This high level of satisfaction was mirrored at the focus groups where participants in the eight focus group discussions were highly satisfied with the National Entitlement Card and all aspects of the scheme. The participants were keen to ensure that there were no planned changes to the scheme as all wished to preserve it.

"I am 100% thrilled"

(Female, older person's group)

"I feel good that I live in a country that has this scheme."

(Male, older person's group)


4.49 The National Entitlement Card is widely used, with the majority of respondents using it for bus travel. A significant minority are also using the NEC for other purposes including train travel, leisure purposes, identification or other methods of travel. Almost all respondents were satisfied with the Concessionary Travel Scheme.

4.50 Overall, the experience of travelling by bus was very satisfactory. Respondents could identify very few problems when travelling by bus, although, disabled respondents were more likely to be able to identify problems in relation to accessibility of bus travel and the attitude of drivers and other passengers.