Separate schemes for nationwide free concessionary travel for the elderly and disabled are in place in England, Scotland and Wales. Qualifying passengers travel for free and the bus operators are reimbursed. Regulations require that bus operators are reimbursed on a “no better or worse off” basis.
In Scotland and Wales, the reimbursement is set at national level. In England, where free travel was introduced in 2006, the Government left reimbursement to local negotiation between bus companies and each of the Local Transport Authorities (“LTAs”), this has resulted in inconsistency and disputes between operators and authorities.
In recent years, the reimbursement rates received by bus operators have been reduced as central government funding has been squeezed. Bus operators, as well as local authorities, have expressed concerns that the current concessionary regime may be financially unsustainable for the public sector in the long run.