New checks are being introduced on buses in Northumberland to prevent the misuse of concessionary bus passes meant for older and disabled people.
From next Tuesday, smart ticket machines on buses in the county, as well as the Tees Valley, will be programmed to indicate immediately whether a concessionary bus pass has been cancelled by the local transport authority which issued it. It is estimated that about one in 40 passes in the North East is in use despite being cancelled.
Where a pass is not valid, the customer may in future be asked to pay the appropriate fare and the pass may be confiscated by the driver, following an initial amnesty period of about a month.
The new checks will reduce potential misuse and fraud while protecting passengers who are entitled to and benefit from concessionary travel. They will be rolled out to all parts of the North East in the new year.
Coun Allan Hepple, cabinet member for economic growth with Northumberland County Council, said: “Smart ticketing means we have the technology to make sure concessionary travel is enjoyed by those people it is intended for, without the potential for misuse or fraud.
“Misuse of concessionary bus passes is not a big problem, but the number of journeys made and the cost of this benefit to local councils makes it important we have robust checks in place.
“For the vast majority of people this will make no difference at all. There will be plenty of publicity on buses to advise someone how to check they are using the right pass if they are in any doubt and local councils are ready to answer any questions.”