Councils scrap 9.30am time limit on OAPs’ free bus travel through coronavirus pandemic


Pensioners will now be able to access the dedicated shopping hours for the elderly in supermarkets after councils in Staffordshire removed the 9.30am time limitation on their bus pass due to the coronavirus.

The pandemic has become a huge strain on older residents, many of whom are self-isolating, after stockpiling and panic buying led to empty shelves in the supermarkets.

In recent days, shops like Iceland, Sainsbury’s and M&S are offering opening times specifically for this age group so they don’t miss out.

But many of these special shopping hours were taking place during the first hour of trading – before pensioners were able to make use of their free bus travel.

Now both Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council have asked all bus operators which accept concessionary bus passes to begin welcoming them on board before 9.30am with immediate effect.

Bus pass holder, Mick Penning, was one of those who had been unable to take advantage of the special shopping hours due to the 9.30am restriction.

A First Potteries bus

The 82-year-old says he would have had to pay £3 on the bus to travel to Sainsbury’s in Newcastle.

Mick, from Newcastle, said: “I was pleased to hear that the supermarkets have made these gestures to the elderly and infirm to dedicate the first hour of trading on a specific day each week for us.

“It will enable us to go to the shop without being jostled and we will have less chance of catching the coronavirus when there are less people on the premises.

“However when I thought about taking advantage of the offer I realised that it was problematic because bus pass users would be required to pay before 9.30am.

“I was going to take advantage of the offer, but it would have cost me around £3. I’m just on a basic pension and I have to watch my money and I’m very careful.

“Otherwise I can’t afford to buy my grandchildren an ice cream.

First Potteries buses

“I think there should be a special dispensation because of the coronavirus as it’s important for me to be able to use this offer.”

The county council introduced the new rule on March 19, with the city council set to follow suit in the coming days.

Helen Fisher, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said: “During coronavirus many supermarkets and food retailers are offering older people the opportunity to shop exclusively first thing in the morning.

“We want to support this initiative and we have asked all bus operators which accept concessionary bus passes to begin accepting them before 9.30am with immediate effect.

“I’d like to thank the bus companies for their support. There has never been a more important time for us all to pull together to get through the next few months.”

Councillor Abi Brown, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: “It’s something we have been considering and something that we will be going ahead with.

Council leader Abi Brown answers questions

“It’s very important at the moment, particularly for the elderly, to be able to access opportunities to go and get local provisions.

“We know how important bus travel is. This is a sensible measure that means we will be able to support the most vulnerable in our city in these challenging times.”

Rob Hughes, head of operations at First Potteries said: “We are in full support of Stoke City Council and Staffordshire County Council’s announcement to lift the statutory 09:30 travel restriction for concessionary travel pass holders with immediate effect.

“This means that people in possession of a concessionary pass can now travel free at all times to help with visits to supermarkets and other essential appointments across the city, whilst we get through this challenging time brought on by the Coronavirus”.





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