Use of the Card
8.1 The NEC was extensively used to travel for free bus travel. This was the primary use of the card in both year one and year two with over nine out of ten card holders using their card in this way. Within the focus groups it was identified that bus travel included not just local buses but intercity and national buses also. The card was also commonly used for train travel and identification purposes. Card holders in Shetland were also very likely to use their card for ferry travel.
8.2 There has been a notable increase in experience of problems 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 Ticketing Machine on the bus being broken was the most commonly reported problem (rising from 5% in 2013 to 10% in 2014).
8.3 As was the case in 2013, there was very little evidence of misuse or abuse of the card. Very few respondents (2%) stated that they had more than one concessionary bus pass that they used for travel and just 15 respondents stated that they had ever given their card to someone else to use. Moreover, the perception of misuse, whilst identified by a very small proportion of respondents (2%), tended to be perceived as opposed to substantiated with examples of perception that the driver has printed the wrong destination on the ticket or that they had seen the driver refusing people for trying to use someone else's card.
8.4 Whilst the existence of Transport Scotland's hotline where misuse could be reported was positively perceived in the focus groups, awareness was relatively low in both the focus groups and the survey. Just 29% of survey respondents were aware that they could report misuse to Transport Scotland's hotline, a marginal increase from 26% in 2013.
8.5 Overall satisfaction with bus travel has remained very high across both survey years with over nine in ten respondents stating that they were satisfied with travelling on the bus generally.
Travel patterns using the card
8.6 The most common type of travelling respondents reported doing when using their card, as was the case in 2013, was shopping followed by leisure. These findings were supported by the focus groups.
8.7 The pattern of travel reported was broadly similar to that reported in 2013 where 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. Also, the distance travelled when using the card varied by area with respondents living in urban areas most likely to travel shorter distances with almost half of those living in large urban areas using their card to travel distances of under 5 miles. This is compared to respondents living in remote rural areas who usually use their card to travel distances of more than 25 miles.
8.8 A new series of questions were asked in 2014 in order to evaluate the extent to which additional journeys were made by card holders. 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. Where respondents indicated that they would have made the journeys anyway, many are now using the bus as opposed to the car for these journeys.
8.9 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
8.10 The most important benefit of the scheme was financial savings followed by providing card holders with independence/ freedom. These were also the most important aspects identified in 2013.
8.11 Disabled and visually impaired card holders were significantly more likely to state that independence was a key benefit of the NEC for them with younger respondents in the focus group supporting this stating that having the card gave them the opportunity to get out and about without relying on parents or carers.
8.12 Card holders with a 60+ card stated that the financial benefits were of most importance to them, in particular, allowing them to go out and not worry about money the way they would have otherwise done. These card holders stated that they were making additional journeys that they would not otherwise have made. In particular these journeys reduced their feeling of 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.
8.13 The NEC scheme is perceived to be helping more than half of card holders maintain or improve their physical health (51%) and sense of wellbeing (63%).
8.14 Physical health was improved due to the fact that respondents do more walking/ walk to the bus stop (46%) or simply getting out of the house/ out and about (44%). Mental wellbeing was more likely to be improved due to respondents getting out of the house (38%), socialising more (26%) and feeling independent (21%).
Satisfaction with the NEC Scheme
8.15 Satisfaction was extremely high with regards to the concessionary travel card scheme overall with almost all survey respondents (98%) being very or fairly satisfied. This was similarly high in 2013. This was reiterated in the focus groups where participants were in general highly satisfied with the card and all aspects of the scheme.