16 July 2010: Free bus passes have enabled millions of older people to retain their independence. But they only work if there are buses to use them on.
Never underestimate the power of a free lunch - or bus pass. Millions of people have benefited, enabling people to cut down on their driving without being stranded in their homes, reliant on friends and family. The pass also reduces social care and health costs.
But the Department for Transport is looking 'reforming' the bus service operators grant. BSOG is a £437 million grant which reduces bus fares and supports less-profitable, lifeline services. Without it, thousands of buses would be at risk.
There's a very real risk that if we just focus on protecting free bus travel for older people, then bus services will be cut back. There's no point in letting pensioners travel for free if there aren't any buses to travel on.
Government has to find a middle ground and ensure that everyone, regardless of age, has access to affordable, reliable public transport.