1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1.1 Research Resource and ODS Consulting were commissioned by Transport Scotland to undertake customer research into the views of National Entitlement Card (NEC) holders, who are users of the Scotland-wide Free Bus Travel for Older and Disabled People Scheme. This report summarises the key findings from year 2 of a two year programme of research with card holders in order to provide insight into the use and value of the NEC.
1.2 The year 2 research comprised a large scale telephone survey of 3,088 card holders and qualitative research with users of the scheme across Scotland through a combination of focus group discussions and in-depth telephone interviews.
1.3 The telephone survey was undertaken with 3,088 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.
1.4 The aim of the qualitative research was to complement the telephone survey and explore the views of card holders in more depth. A total of 67 people participated in this study (62 participants at seven focus groups and five telephone interviews). The groups and discussion topics covered use of a range of card types including 60+, disabled and visually impaired entitlement cards. This research was carried out across a mix of locations (including urban locations such as Edinburgh and Dundee to more rural locations such as Moray and South Ayrshire) to give geographical diversity.
1.5 This executive summary highlights the key findings from this programme of research.
1.6 Satisfaction was extremely high with regards to the Scotland-wide Free Bus Travel for Older and Disabled People Scheme with almost all survey respondents being very or fairly satisfied with the scheme overall. Satisfaction levels have remained similar to 2013 with 98% stating that they were either 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.
1.7 Satisfaction with bus travel generally was also high with over 9 in 10 respondents (93%) expressing satisfaction when travelling by bus (92% in 2013). It was interesting to note that despite very high levels of satisfaction, disabled and visually impaired card holders were less likely to state that they were very satisfied compared to the 60+ card holders. This finding was mirrored in the focus groups where respondents who were disabled or who had a visual impairment were able to identify issues in relation to accessing the bus and in relation to driver attitude towards them.
The application process
1.8 Whilst the main channels that raised awareness of the NEC product were informal, mainly through word of mouth, respondents found it easy to obtain the information they needed on the concessionary travel scheme. These findings were consistent with the 2013 customer survey.
Using the card
1.9 The research identified that most people (91% of respondents) used their concessionary travel card for free bus travel, a marginal increase from 86% who reported using their card to travel by bus in 2012. This was substantiated in the focus group findings where most people used their card for bus travel and this included local buses as well as intercity buses and national buses. Notably, there was a significantly higher level of usage in urban areas compared to those living in rural areas.
1.10 The NEC was also used by 38% (37% in 2012) of respondents for things other than free bus travel. The most commonly cited other use was for train travel followed by identification. Train travel was most common in the Strathclyde transport areas. Those living in the Highlands and Islands and Shetland transport areas also commonly cited that they used their card for ferry travel.
1.11 There has been a notable increase of problems experienced when travelling by bus between year 1 and year 2, with an increase of 9% points (rising from 8% experiencing problems in 2013 to 17% in 2014). Issues with the electronic ticketing machine was the most commonly reported problem (10%).
1.12 Just 2% of respondents noted that they had problems physically putting the card on the machine. This was similar to last year. Both the survey and focus groups identified that this was more likely to be the case for disabled or visually impaired respondents with a number of examples given in the focus groups of the sort of issues that these respondents faced. It was reported that this experience went one of two ways. Where it was dealt with by a helpful driver, the experience was one that was very positive, but where the attitude of the driver was less helpful, the experience was noted as particularly negative.
1.13 A very small proportion of respondents, 2%, stated that they have more than one concessionary bus pass that they use for travel. Almost half of these respondents did not know why they had more than one card. Where they did know, the most common reason was that they had residence in more than one Scottish local authority.
1.14 There was very little evidence of misuse of the card with just 15 respondents stating that they have ever given their card to anyone else to use and just 2% (55 respondents) stating that they suspected they had seen misuse of the card. The low level of misuse was also supported by focus group findings.
1.15 Almost one third of respondents (29%) were aware that they could report misuse to Transport Scotland's hotline, a marginal increase from 26% in 2013. The focus groups identified very low levels of awareness of the Hotline, although when highlighted to them that it existed focus group participants were very positive about its existence and reassured that Transport Scotland was taking misuse seriously.
Travel patterns using the card
1.16 The most common types of journeys cardholders used the card for were, as was the case in 2013, shopping followed by leisure. These findings were supported by the focus groups.
1.17 Respondents reported using their card frequently with almost two thirds (65%) saying that they use their card at least once per week with almost half (44%) using their card 4 or more times per week.
1.18 The distance travelled when using the card varied by area with respondents living in urban areas most likely to travel shorter distances. For instance, almost half of those living in large urban areas using their card to travel distances of under 5 miles, whereas respondents living in remote rural areas usually use their card to travel distances of more than 25 miles. Again, the profile of usage of the card is similar to that reported in 2013.
1.19 There was significant evidence of additional journeys being made by card holders that they would not have made had they not had the card. Almost half of respondents (48%) said they now make journeys using their card that they would not previously have done, in particular day trips or visiting friends and relatives.
1.20 Thinking of all the journeys they make using the card, almost one third of respondents (32%) stated that they would have made very few or none of these journeys anyway. Respondents also indicated that having the card made a positive impact on both their physical health and wellbeing, with many noting that they now get out and about where they would not have done so.
1.21 Over two thirds of respondents (68%) stated that they would have made some, most or all of these journeys anyway. Where that was the case, 34% stated that they would have previously made the journey by car indicating that the NEC is encouraging respondents to make alternative transport choices.
1.22 Again, this was supported by subsequent questions asked explicitly about changes to travel methods with over half of respondents stating that having the concessionary travel card has changed the method they use to travel with the vast majority (74%) stating that they now use the bus more and 41% using the car less.
Benefits and impact of the scheme
1.23 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 over 4 in 10 respondents said that the main important aspect of the scheme for them was the financial savings. This was followed by giving the individual independence or freedom (22%) and allowing the respondent to get out of the house (10%). These were also the most important aspects identified in 2013.
1.24 For respondents with a Disabled or Visual Impairment badge, the provision of independence was much more likely to be a key benefit. This was strongly reinforced at the focus groups where, in particular, younger participants felt that having the Card gave them the opportunity to get out and about without relying on their parents or carers for support. This was very important to them.
1.25 Whilst for older people saving money was very important, this led to further benefits in that due to the fact that they did not have to worry about money they were more likely to make journeys and get out of the house than they would otherwise have been. This led to a positive impact on both their mental and physical wellbeing. In particular it significantly reduced social isolation and led to older people getting out and interacting with others when they would not have done in the absence of the card.
1.26 Just over half of respondents (51%) stated that they felt that having the concessionary travel card helps them maintain, or improve, their physical health. Respondents stated that they did more walking/ walk to the bus stop (46%) or that it simply got them out of the house/ out and about (44%).
1.27 In terms of its impact on mental wellbeing, 63% of respondents stated that they felt that having the concessionary travel card helped them maintain, or improve, their sense of mental wellbeing. This was more likely to be the case for those with a disabled or visually impaired card where 77% stated that having the card helped them improve or maintain their sense of mental wellbeing.