John Frahill recently submitted a question to the Travel with Aging Parents site regarding discounted transit programs for seniors in the UK:
I am writing you in regards to a senior bus and rail pass. I was born in the UK and am thinking of returning and living permanently there. Would I be eligible for the program? I’d appreciate any information you can give me!
Thanks for this great question John! As you know, I’m a huge fan of using travel discounts and deals whenever possible. Transit discounts for seniors exist in many parts of the world, and the UK is one of them.
Back in March, I wrote about the BritRail Pass, which gives a 15% discount on hop-on-hop-off trains on routes throughout the UK. Those are valid only for non-UK residents, though, and it sounds like you’re looking specifically for discounts extended to UK residents or citizens. I reached out to the British consulate in New York City about your question, and although my contact there didn’t have an answer to your question, he was able to point me toward some online resources that he thought might be helpful.
First, let’s talk about the rail pass. For 30£ per year (or 70£ for three years), the National Rail’s Senior Railcard gives pass holders a 33% discount on both first-class and standard fares, as well as discounts with several dining, lodging, and travel partners. The ticket discount is valid on nearly all routes; exceptions include rush-hour trains in the London area.
Anyone aged 60 and older can use the Senior Railcard. You can purchase it online (you’ll need either a valid UK drivers license or a valid UK passport number to do this) or in person at a rail station (where non-UK citizens show a birth certificate or passport to prove their eligibility).
Acquiring a senior bus pass (the English National Bus Concession Scheme), on the other hand, is a bit more complicated. Bus passes are managed regionally, and it looks like eligibility is based in part on the state pension calculator, which crunches numbers that include a person’s age and how many years a person worked or paid for National Insurance contributions.
Although the passes are administered regionally, they are valid nationally. Pass holders can travel for free on any local bus in England during off-peak hours (all day on weekends and bank holidays, and between 9:30 a.m. and 11 p.m. on weekdays). They are valid only for UK residents who are at least 60, but in many cases (depending on one’s “pensionable age”) the eligibility age is higher.
I think I’ve covered most of the important territory here, but you know how complicated government bureaucracy can be! It’s quite possible that I’ve missed something, so use this post as a starting point in your own research. Your unique situation (e.g., your age, your changing residency status) will certainly influence your eligibility, so your best bet is to contact the relevant government agencies directly and ask them about your case.
- Senior Railcard: contact the National Railcard office here
- English National Bus Concession Scheme: contact the relevant county council from this list
Good luck John! Let me know how it goes when you apply.