Concessionary Travel - Customer Feedback Research Year Two Report



7.1 The telephone survey and focus groups sought to understand the benefits of the scheme to card holders in addition to the impact of the scheme in relation to change in mode of transport. It also explored the extent to which card holders believed that having the card helps them maintain or improve their physical health and sense of wellbeing. The focus groups also sought to identify recommendations for improvement to the scheme.

Important aspects of the scheme

7.2 Respondents were asked what they believed were the most important aspects of having a concessionary travel card. This revealed that, in common with 2013, the two most common responses were that it saves money or is free (70%), it gives independence and freedom (46%) and it enables respondents to get out of the house (34%).

7.3 When asked to select the aspect which was most important to them, 43% of respondents selected the financial aspects of the card and that it saves them money. This was followed by giving them independence or freedom (22%).

Table 7.1: Most important aspects of having the NEC
Q25 (a) What aspects of having a Concessionary Travel Card are important to you? And (b) which would you say is most important?
Base: use card for bus travel, n=2808 All Most important
Saving money/ free 70% 43%
Gives me independence/ freedom 46% 22%
Gets me out of the house 34% 10%
Allows me to get to places that I can't park my car i.e. hospital 23% 8%
It allows me to socialise more 17% 2%
I can travel with confidence/ safely 15% 2%
Convenient/ easy to use 8% 4%
Do not need to carry money/ look for change 5% 2%
It gives me confidence that I can travel in other ways/ allows me to avoid driving/ can use as emergency/ back up 4% 2%
Being able to use it at swimming/ leisure facilities 4% 0.2%
Ability to use bus or the train 2% 1%
Allows me to go on longer journeys that I wouldn't otherwise 1% 1%
Allows me to enjoy travelling/ relax 1% 0.5%
None 1% 1%
The ability to have a companion with me 1% 0.3%
Environmentally friendly 0.7% 0.5%
Other 0.7% 0.4%
Don't know/ no response 0.1% 0.1%

7.4 Analysis by card type revealed significant differences in relation to the most important benefits to card holders. Saving money was significantly more likely to be cited as the most important benefit by 60+ card holders (44%) than disabled or visually impaired card holders (30%). On the other hand, having independence and freedom was cited as the most important aspect of the card for disabled or visually impaired card holders (37%) than 60+ card holders (19%).

7.5 In the focus group discussions, the benefits mentioned were very similar to those reported in year one. Participants found it difficult to state which was the most important benefit for them; as they were all perceived to be important. Benefits of the NEC included the financial savings from the card, the independence the card offered, the way it tackles social isolation by encouraging people to get out of the house and in turn, the way it can improve the quality of life for many people. Below we look in more detail at the benefits as mentioned by participants.

Financial savings

7.6 A key benefit of the scheme was the financial savings that the card provided. Some participants reported that they had made considerable savings on their travel costs by using the NEC.

"I travel twice a week to Perth; it's £14.70 return; so that's £28 a week, plus a few trips to the adds up very quickly."
(Female, older person's group)

7.7 Older participants spoke of how the free bus travel motivated them to go out - which meant that even when they did not have any money - they were not confined to the house.

"It costs £15 to Aberdeen or £6.50 to Inverness - you couldn't afford to travel too far without the card."
(Female, rural group)

"It allows you to get out and about far more than you would've done if you were paying for it."
(Female, older person's group)

Reduces isolation

7.8 Participants felt strongly that the NEC gave people the means to get out and about, thus reducing the likelihood of social isolation. Older people particularly were able to use the card to meet friends and visit relatives. It was suggested that if people were having to pay to do so, they "might not bother".

"There are social benefits of having the bus pass - older people can get out of the house."
(Female, rural group)

"I can get out and about. Before I might have thought 'oh I can't be bothered' but not now."
(Female, Companion Card holder)

Independence and confidence

7.9 The sense of independence was noted by all participants, but particularly disabled participants felt this was a benefit to them, as it meant they did not have to rely on others to travel.

"It has given me choice and I'm less reliant on others."
(Male, blind and visually impaired group)

"It gives me more independence."
(Female, people with mental health issues group)

"The scheme is a fantastic investment. It enables inclusion and confidence. I'm extremely grateful for the card as it means less planning, and makes you feel closer to normal society."
(Male, blind and visually impaired group)

7.10 The young disabled participants believed they were more independent now because of the card; and their parents agreed. Organisations working with disabled young people arranged for them to practice using their cards to increase their confidence on school trips and social visits. Parents reported that they had seen their children's confidence increase since having the card.

"He's much more confident - he travels on the bus alone and visits his gran after school - that takes two buses."
(Male, parent - disabled children's group)

"We've used our card for two or three years and it's a godsend. It gives her more independence."
(Female, parent - disabled children's group)


7.11 Some participants also commented on their renewed sense of spontaneity with the card. They were able to 'get up and go' without having to plan ahead, or ensure they had enough money to travel.

"You don't have to think about it; you can just go and decide to go out that day - as long as you have enough money for a cup of tea."
(Female, rural group)


7.12 Those participants who were driving and had access to a car indicated that in some circumstances, the bus was a more convenient way of travelling to their destination than driving and having to find space to park.

"It's cheaper and I don't have to park in the city."
(Male, older person's group)

Changes to travel method

7.13 Telephone survey respondents were asked about any changes to travel methods as a result of having the concessionary travel card. Just over half of respondents (53%) agreed that the travel card had indeed changed their travel method. This is an increase from 43% in 2013. Analysis by age revealed that respondents aged 60-64 were most likely to have stated that their main method of travel has changed as a result of having their NEC.

7.14 Those who agreed with this statement were asked in what way their travel methods had changed. The vast majority of these individuals said they now use the bus more (74%) and 41% stated that they now use the car less frequently. Interestingly, almost one in ten (9%) said that they walk more than they used to.

Impact of the scheme on physical health and mental wellbeing

7.15 Just over half of respondents (51%) stated that they feel that having the concessionary travel card helps them maintain, or improve, their physical health.

7.16 Respondents with disabled or visual cards were more likely to state that they believed having their card had a positive impact on their physical health (55%). This was most notably due to the fact that respondents stated that they do more walking/ walk to the bus stop (46%) or that it simply gets them out of the house/ out and about (44%).

Table 7.2: Reasons why having the NEC helps physical health
Q28a Can you explain how the Card helps your physical health?
Base: card helps maintain or improve physical health, n=1391 %
Doing more walking/ walk to bus stop 46%
Gets me out of the house/ out and about 44%
Makes me exercise/ more active 13%
Bus helps as struggle to walk/ can't walk far 10%
Can go to leisure facilities e.g. swimming, gym 4%
Gets me to appointments e.g. hospital, medical 3%
Less stressful than driving 2%
Able to socialise 1%
Other 1%

7.17 In terms of its impact on mental wellbeing, 63% of respondents stated that they feel that having the concessionary travel card helps them maintain, or improve, their sense of mental wellbeing.

7.18 This was most notably the case in Strathclyde where 69% stated they believe that having the card helps them improve or maintain their sense of mental wellbeing. It was also significantly more likely to be the case for respondents with disabled or visually impaired cards where 77% of respondents with this type of card stated that they believed having their card helped them improve or maintain their sense of mental wellbeing.

7.19 Respondents explained why they believed that having the card helped their sense of mental wellbeing. They reported that it made them feel good to get out and about (38%), that it helped them socialise more and meet new people (26%) and that it helped them feel more independent (21%).

Table 7.3: Reasons why having the NEC helps mental wellbeing
Q28b Can you explain how the Card helps your sense of well-being?
Base: card helps maintain or improve mental wellbeing, n=1684 %
Gets me out the house/ makes me feel good to get out and about 38%
More socialising/ meet new people 26%
Feel more independent/ freedom 21%
Cheaper/ wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise/ don't have to worry about finances 12%
Less stressful/ don't have to worry about parking 11%
Happy to have it/ handy to know it's there if needed 7%
Become more active/ mobile 5%
Can go visit family/ see them more 4%
Can use for leisure purposes e.g. cinema 3%
Can get to appointments e.g. doctors, hospital 1%
Other 1%

Improvements to the NEC scheme

7.20 Focus group participants were asked if they could suggest any improvements to the National Entitlement Card scheme. Participants with disabilities specifically mentioned a need for improvements in drivers' disability awareness.

"It's just the drivers in [local authority] that need educating and who make comments when we try to use our cards."
(Male, people with mental health issues group)

7.21 Also mentioned as a possible improvement was to extend the scheme to cover train travel. Already some participants enjoyed discounted fares on local trains, but some would have preferred for this to be free travel under the scheme. Parents of disabled children mentioned that it would be easier to travel on the train, than on the bus with their children as they said they could more easily plan to catch a train than wait for a bus. Others mentioned their desire to be able to use the card in England, so that they could travel further to see friends and family, for free.

"The best possible scenario would be free rail travel."
(Female, people with mental health issues group)

"If the card could be used on the train, then we'd use it more often."
(Female, parent - disabled children's group)

7.22 Blind and visually impaired participants suggested that all the NECs issued to those with a visual impairment should include a companion (all should be C+1 rather than just C). They felt that conditions could be degenerative and it would be easier if they had the option from the start to have a companion (and companion travel should be free on all forms of transport).

"Visually impaired people have no choice but to travel assisted; we can't see the built environment."
(Male, blind and visually impaired group)

"Every blind person requiring a concessionary travel card should have a Companion Card - there shouldn't be 'plus ones' as sometimes conditions are degenerative and it's hard to explain that it's got worse."
(Female, blind and visually impaired group)

7.23 Participants from the rural area commented on the need for more frequent buses. Some routes were served with only one bus every two hours and participants commented that this restricted their ability to travel.

"If only we had more buses."
(Female, rural group)

7.24 And there was a general comment that it would be useful to have some information available that sets out where you can use your NEC and what discounts it would allow you. Some participants spoke of being confused as to how much discount their companion was entitled to; while others said it would be useful to know where else the card could be used, like cinemas and leisure facilities.

"No-one tells you where or what you can use the card for, like in the library; they should advertise."
(Female, older person's group)

"They don't promote what you can use it for, you just hear about it through word of the concession for swimming."
(Female, older person's group)


7.25 Both survey respondents and focus group participants were readily able to identify many benefits of having their NEC, with the most commonly identified benefits as being saving money, providing independence and getting them out of the house.

7.26 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.

7.27 Whilst for older people saving money was very important, this led to further benefits in that as they did not have to worry about money they were more likely to make journeys to 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.

7.28 Importantly, the NEC scheme is perceived to be helping card holders either maintain or improve their physical health and, more significantly, their sense of wellbeing. Whist this was the case of the majority of card holders overall, it was more likely to be the case for those with disabled or visually impaired cards. The card provides them with the ability to feel more independent and allows them to get out of the house in ways that they may not have in the absence of the card.