Freedom Pass is a concessionary travel scheme, which began in 1973, to provide free travel to residents of Greater London, England, who are aged 60 and over (eligibility age increasing by phases to 66 by 2020) or who have a disability. The scheme is funded by local authorities and coordinated by London Councils. Originally the pass was a paper ticket, but since 2004 it has been encoded on to a contactless smartcard compatible with Oyster card readers.
The scheme was created in 1973 by the Greater London Council, although there had been concessionary bus fare schemes in London before that. When the council was abolished in 1986, responsibility for the scheme passed to the London borough councils. The cost of providing the travel concession is negotiated between London Councils and the local transport operator Transport for London. It is funded through a mixture of national grant and council tax. In 2007 there was a dispute between Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and London Councils on the negotiation process, in particular the ability for the Greater London Authority to impose a charge should no agreement be reached.
Freedom Passes have two main versions, an Older Person's Freedom Pass (OPFP) and a Disabled Person's Freedom Pass (DPFP); the former has a blue right hand edge and the latter a yellow one to enable transport operators to quickly identify which concessions are applicable. Greater London residents who turned 60 before 6 April 2010 were eligible for an OPFP but from then on the qualifying age increases in a graduated way, until it becomes 66 by 6 October 2020, although the 2011 government spending review proposes speeding the process to be fully implemented by 2018. London residents over 60 can get a 60+ oystercard on payment of £20. This has all the benefits of the Freedom Pass, but only within Greater London. Unlike the Freedom Pass, it is not valid on buses outside Greater London.
Disabled residents for whom an Older Person's Freedom Pass is inappropriate (if they are too young or specifically require a Disabled Person's Freedom Pass) are, if they do not automatically qualify (e.g. if they are already certified as blind), assessed to determine whether their degree of disability allows issue of a disabled person's pass. In early 2010 the responsibility for judging the degree of disability passed to local councils, and there were complaints of people who had been assessed as needing a pass for many years not having their passes renewed although their condition had not improved.
The Freedom Pass webpage links to pages with information on the "national scheme statutory disabled pass" which list the seven main categories of disability set out by the Transport Act 2000 to assess eligibility for a Freedom Pass, and the "London-only discretionary disabled pass" which may be issued by local councils at their discretion in exceptional circumstances to disabled people who do not meet the criteria.
Those with statutory disabilities entitling them to a DPFP are:
- People who are blind or partially sighted
- People who are profoundly or severely deaf
- People without speech
- People who have a disability, or have suffered an injury, which has left them with a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to walk
- People who do not have arms or have a long-term loss of the use of both arms
- People who have a learning disability that is defined as 'a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind which includes significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning'
- People who, if they applied for the grant of a licence to drive a motor vehicle under Part III of the Road Traffic Act 1988, would have their application refused pursuant to section 92 of the Act (physical fitness) otherwise than on the ground of persistent misuse of drugs or alcohol.
Scope and validity
The Freedom Pass is valid at all times on London Underground, London Overground, Bus, Tram, and Docklands Light Railway services in Greater London (until January 2009 the pass was only valid on weekdays from 9:00).
Outside Greater London the card can be used in England (but not Scotland or Wales) wherever and whenever the English National Concessionary Bus Travel Scheme applies, and allows free travel on any local bus route; while some operators may extend validity, travel on working days before 9:30 and after 23:00 is not otherwise included.
Most previous Freedom Passes expired on 31 March 2015, and were automatically renewed until 2020.
The Freedom Pass is not valid for travel on many longer-distance train services even if they stop within Greater London (many such journeys are prohibited for all passengers by "stops for picking up/setting down only" restrictions) or for non-London Underground trains to Heathrow airport (they may be used on Heathrow Connect services, but only between Paddington and Hayes & Harlington). They may be used on London Overground trains to Watford Junction in Hertfordshire, but can only be used as far as Harrow and Wealdstone on London Midland and Southern Railway services; Freedom Pass validity for these services is less than that of Oyster cards.
For travel which crosses the boundary of the area of validity of the Freedom Pass at a time and on a service where the Pass is valid, it is normally necessary to buy a ticket only for the section not covered by the Pass, i.e. a ticket from the Freedom Pass boundary, or from a named station within the zone of validity. A ticket from a named station may technically not be valid on a train that does not stop at that station; an otherwise identical ticket from the "Freedom Pass boundary" explicitly avoids potential disputes, and does not require the traveller to work out which station is appropriate.
The Freedom Pass is not valid on long-distance coach services which are not operating a long-term service with a majority of seats not requiring reservation; other restrictions apply on bus or coach services which are not operating as a stage carriage (in summary, a service of any distance using buses or coaches providing local services) or in substitution of a railway service on which the Freedom Pass would be valid. They are not valid for any purpose in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Lost, stolen, damaged, or faulty pass
A lost, stolen, damaged, or faulty pass can be replaced on application. There is a charge of £12 for loss or damage, not applicable if the pass is stolen and a police crime reference number has been obtained, and refundable if the pass is returned and found on examination to be faulty rather than damaged.
A faulty or damaged Freedom Pass that does not function as a contactless Oyster card remains valid for travel until replaced; it must be presented for manual inspection. The Freedom Pass website warns that the transport operator's staff will inspect the pass closely to confirm validity, and suggests carrying additional proof of identity; a pass whose validity is doubted may not be accepted.
Restoration of free travel at age 60
Since November 2012 Greater London residents aged 60 or over who do not qualify for a Freedom Pass are eligible for a 60+ Oyster photocard on payment of a £20 administration fee; this restores the entitlement to free (at the time of use) travel from the age of 60 that was removed when the general qualifying age for concessionary travel was tied by national legislation to the national retirement age in 2010. The 60+ Oyster Card is valid on the same services within Greater London and some adjacent places as the Freedom Pass but is not valid for travel elsewhere in England.
- Gilligan, Andrew (27 March 2012). "Ken Livingstone: six new lies in a single afternoon..." Daily Telegraph (blog). London. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
- "An open letter to Londoners on Freedom Pass". London Councils. 9 May 2007. Archived from the original on 28 February 2019. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
- Mayor of London (5 May 2007). "Londoners join fight to defend the Freedom Pass" (Press release). Greater London Authority. Archived from the original on 7 August 2007. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
- Untitled document referred from "Am I entitled to apply for a Freedom Pass?" Archived 27 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- Proposed changes to State Pension age, 29 November 2011
- "60+ London Oyster photocard - Transport for London". tfl.gov.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-31.
- "Freedom Pass taken off woman with learning disabilities". BBC News. 14 May 2010.
- "Brentford woman 'not deaf enough' for free travel". Hounslow Chronicle. 13 May 2010.
- London councils Freedom Pass webpage
- Transport Act 2000 (c. 38), Mandatory concessions outside Greater London, see 146 Mandatory concessions: supplementary
- "Freedom Pass: Travel Map". London Councils. February 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
- Did your Freedom Pass expire on 31 March 2015?, Did your disabled persons Freedom Pass expire on 31 March 2015?, London Councils Freedom Pass Web site
- Transport for London - Freedom Pass (retrieved 31 May 2017)
- Detailed borough-by-borough information on Freedom Pass exclusions
- "Freedom Pass: Exceptions map". London Councils. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- National Rail Enquiries - Freedom Pass (retrieved 9 April 2014)
- "Free bus travel in England for older and disabled people". DirectGov. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
- s.3 Transport Act 1980
- Freedom Pass Web site: What to do if your Freedom Pass has been lost, stolen or damaged