Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Age Concern England (IT 20)

INTEGRATED TRANSPORT WHITE PAPER

BACKGROUND

  1. Age Concern England (the National Council on Ageing) is a confederation of over a thousand national and local organisations concerned with promoting the well-being, fulfilment and happiness to older people. Nationally Age Concern England works to achieve better conditions for older people.

  2. We welcomed the opportunity to comment on the Government's Green Paper "Developing an Integrated Transport Policy" last October. The existence of affordable, accessible and available transport can mean the difference between independence and isolation for older people. We were pleased to note that the Government recognised this by stating that it was committed to ensure that transport policy plays its part in reducing social exclusion and taking account of the basic accessibility needs of all sectors of society, including disabled people.

  3. Many older people do not own a car. In 1994 the Family Expenditure survey found that about 91 per cent of single pensioners and 53 per cent of couples who were mainly dependent on state benefits for at least 75 per cent of their income did not own a car, and are dependent on public transport. Although there will be a substantial increase in the numbers of older drivers in the future, particularly amongst older women drivers, public transport will remain an important issue for older people.

  4. We considered that any proposed transport strategy should give much higher priority to pedestrians and public transport users than had previously been the case. We welcomed the underlying proposition in the Green Paper that transport policy in the future would give less priority to car users than in the past, and would take greater account of the needs of other road users.

WHITE PAPER PROPOSALS

  5. We were very pleased to see that the White Paper specifically addressed all the points we had raised in our original response. It also covered points we had made at a meeting held by Glenda Jackson for voluntary organisations representing older people and people with disabilities. We particularly welcomed the proposal that there should be a national minimum concessionary bus fares scheme, which we have been campaigning for for some years. However, it is not clear from the White Paper whether this scheme will provide a nationwide interchangeability of passes—as is currently the case with the Senior Railcard. It would be a pity to have created a national scheme which in practice maintains a plethora of different schemes that change at local authority boundaries.

  6. We also support the government's determination to improve the provision of public transport in rural areas, setting up a review to develop a speed policy and the recognition of the need to address older people's fear of crime. We also endorse their commitment to strengthen planning guidance to local authorities to further the aims of reducing the need to travel and promote an integrated transport policy.

  7. We were also pleased to note the references to the need for bus and rail staff to have customer care training. We are sure that if these staff were more aware of the needs of older people they would change their behaviour, thus reducing the number of complaints we receive about the conduct of transport staff.

IMPLEMENTATION

  8. However, there will need to be stringent monitoring to ensure that the proposals are implemented. Although the White Paper stated that the Government intends to "publish information on how successful the new approach is", the Paper did not outline how this monitoring was to occur. In addition, some of the proposals will require primary legislation to be implemented. For example, the concessionary bus pass proposal will require an amendment to the 1985 Transport Act. We are therefore are concerned to hear that there may not be parliamentary time in the next session to be able to implement the White Paper proposals. We consider that any delay will result in a serious reduction in the impetus to develop an integrated transport policy.

Age Concern England

September 1998


 
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