The results

During December 2013 and January 2014 we carried out a consultation to gather the views of those most affected by the proposed changes. The objectives of the consultation were as follows:

  • To see if respondents agreed with the proposals.
  • To identify any alternative proposals the respondents have that could save money.
  • To understand the impact the proposals would have on the respondents.

The consultation consisted of the following:

  • Online survey; this was completed by over 1,800 respondents. It was promoted via the DCC website, Journey Devon website, social media channels and a press release.
  • 1,250 postal surveys were sent out to a random sub set of those on the DCC National Bus Pass database. A total of 440 surveys were received giving a response rate of over 35%.
  • 2 face-to-face focus groups were also held with two groups with protective characteristics (physical and learning disabilities).

In total we received over 2,300 responses to the consultation.

The vast majority of respondents were aged 60 and over, which was expected given the sample used. There were also an equal proportion of male and female respondents with percentages broadly equivalent to the overall Devon population.

Approximately 15% of respondents said they had a disability. Along with the focus groups, we feel that we have gained opinions from a fair and proportionate sample of individuals with disabilities.

Key findings

  • It was apparent that there is a huge level of misunderstanding about how the National Bus Pass scheme works and the relationship between the bus companies and DCC. A number of respondents suggested introducing a nominal fee for a bus pass, making the bus pass means tested, or charging a discretionary amount per journey – clearly not understanding that DCC are unable to do this due to legislation.
  • The majority of respondents feel that patients and visitors to the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, who use their bus pass on the Park & Ride service, should not be affected.
  • With regard to tourist routes, a small number were concerned that this may have an impact on tourism in Devon. However, the majority believed that the bus pass should not be used on these services.
  • Where people disagreed with the proposals, there were very few viable alternatives mentioned. Suggestions which would be difficult or impossible to implement, and indeed may have little impact on reducing costs, included reducing the size and frequency of the buses, charging for a bus pass or making it means tested as mentioned previously.
  • Overall, the other proposals regarding moving times, increasing the cost of lost bus passes and increasing the cost of the North Devon student travel pass were acceptable to the majority of respondents.

Revised proposals

National Bus Pass Scheme

In the past, we have added extra local elements to the National Bus Pass Scheme. If we stopped providing these extras, it would save up to £47,500 a year.

Responded to by 2345 respondents.

The response of those agreeing/disagreeing with the proposal for each service is shown below.

1. Services running mostly for tourists (services to Dartmoor on summer Sundays and Haytor Hopper; Plymouth to Bovisand; Ilfracombe to Minehead; the summer Park & Ride bus at Salcombe)

  • Yes 75%
  • No 25%

There were some concerns that reducing pass use on tourist services could impact on the local economy, but the majority still agreed with the proposal. Following consideration of these responses this part of the proposal will remain the same.

2. Special bus services to matches at Exeter Rugby Ground

  • Yes 89%
  • No 11%

Most comments about service to the rugby ground supported the withdrawal of use of the National Bus Pass, with several people suggesting that the Exeter Chiefs should contribute to the service costs. Following consideration of these responses this part of the proposal will remain the same.

3. Park & Ride services to RD&E Hospital, Exeter for patients, visitors and staff

  • Yes 17%
  • No 83%

A majority of responses focused on the Park and Ride service to the RD&E Hospital. It was felt that any changes would impact badly on older people and people with disabilities accessing appointments, as parking at the hospital believed to be very difficult and also very expensive. There were concerns about the knock on effects if people chose not to attend their appointments due to these costs and difficulties.

Following consideration of the response, the RD&E Hospital Park and Ride will be excluded from the concessionary scheme. However, National Bus Pass holders will be offered a special return fare of £1.20 by the bus company. This will be at the bus company’s commercial risk and not part of the concessionary scheme funded by the County Council.

4. Services that are bookable in advance, such as day trips run by some community buses e.g. journeys from Tavistock to Newton Abbot

  • Yes 71%
  • No 29%

It was commented that Community Buses are a vital service for some people as there are no alternatives in some areas. Due to this, using the National Bus Pass should be allowed on regular (non-bookable) services. However, it was also felt that no subsidy should be offered on bookable services, and that passengers should pay the fare. It was also suggested that Community Buses should stop running bookable services.

Following consideration of these responses this part of the proposal will remain the same. It is understood that Tavistock Community Transport are removing the bookable facility on their service. Should they do so, these services will remain part of the concessionary scheme.

5. Public bus services that are mainly used to carry school children

  • Yes 46%
  • No 54%

Comments around school children being able to access free travel to education were frequent but this showed a misunderstanding of the proposal again. People interpreted the question to mean that the children would not be able to travel on services, rather than National Bus Pass users not being able to use their passes on buses primarily for the use of school children. Following consideration of these responses this part of the proposal will remain the same.


We currently allow free travel for National Bus Pass holders before the statutory start time of 9.30am, when there is no other bus before 11.00am. This allowance costs us more money. We propose to allow free travel before 9.30am, only when there is no other bus before 11.30am instead of 11.00am. This would save £15,000 a year. We would still allow free travel for National Bus Pass holders where the only bus of the day goes before 9.30am. To comply with National Bus Pass legislation, we are not allowed to encourage pass holders to make any payment on journeys where the bus pass applies.

Responded to by 1589 respondents.

Percentage of respondents agreeing with this proposal

  • Yes 83%
  • No 17%

There was a lot of misunderstanding around what was being proposed in this section as the concept was a little difficult to understand.

Even though it was explained in the preamble, most people did not understand that DCC are not able to ask pass holders to pay a fare contribution, with many people stating that they are happy to make a small contribution to bus fares when travelling. There were also many suggestions to charge an annual fee for having the National Bus Pass, in common with the Senior Rail Card.

Many felt that a later access to bus services would have an adverse effect on their ability to access health appointments and also employment.

Some suggested that savings should be found elsewhere in the Council and that the level of savings these measures would make were so minimal that they were not worth the aggravation that could be caused by making changes.

Following consideration of these responses this part of the proposal will remain the same.

If someone loses their bus pass, we may charge for a replacement. The current charge is £8. We propose £10, saving us £4,000 a year. This charge is in line with the cost of administering replacement passes and is what many other councils charge. We cannot charge more than it costs to replace the pass. We currently replace nearly 2,000 lost passes per year. We asked respondents if they felt this increase was reasonable.

Responded to by 1385 respondents.

Percentage of responents agreeing with this proposal

  • Yes 96&
  • No 4%

There was an overwhelming response in favour of this proposal. People were also given the opportunity to comment as what would be a reasonable cost to replace a pass if it wasn’t £10, a large number of respondents thought that costs in the region of £15-20 would still be reasonable.

Following consideration of these responses this part of the proposal will remain the same.

Post-16 student transport

Students over the age of sixteen are not automatically entitled to free transport to college. We offer a student travel pass for £500 a year (reduced to £470 if paid in one lump sum) to eligible students. The pass covers some of the cost of travelling to college. Because of past competition between bus companies, weekly passes purchased throughout the college year on Devon County Council funded bus services in northern Devon, totals only £396 a year. We are proposing that on subsidised bus services, everyone should pay £500. This could save us £40,000 in 2014/15.

Responded to by 1001 respondents

We asked respondents if they agreed that students in northern Devon should pay £500 per year instead of £396, which is the same as the student ticket price in the rest of Devon.

Percentage of respondents agreeing with this proposal

  • Yes 84%
  • No 16%

The general opinion seemed to be that there should be a level playing field of charges to students across the county.

There were suggestions that competitive pricing should be encourage further with bus operators to bring prices down for all students buying passes, as this could reduce financial difficulties.

There were also suggestions that car sharing should be encouraged more and that smaller buses be used as respondents incorrectly assumed that this reduces running costs in all cases.

Few respondents felt that the proposal would impact on them but this was not surprising as over 99% of respondents to this question were over 41 years of age.

Following consideration of these responses this part of the proposal will remain the same.