New checks are being introduced on buses in the North East to prevent the misuse of concessionary bus passes meant for older and disabled people.
From August 30, smart ticket machines on buses in Northumberland will be programmed to indicate immediately whether a concessionary bus pass has been cancelled by the local transport authority which issued it.
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.
A publicity campaign has been launched to advise passengers of the change, introduced on behalf of local transport authorities which issue bus passes, and in partnership with bus companies.
More than a million journies every week are made in the North East by passengers with concessionary bus passes, costing local transport authorities tens of millions each year in payments to bus companies.
However, it is estimated that about one in 40 passes in the region is in use despite being cancelled.
The new checks will reduce potential misuse and fraud while protecting passengers who are entitled to and benefit from concessionary travel.
Coun Alan 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.”
All bus ticket machines use a common technology as part of the local authority-led roll-out of smart travel in the region, known as the North East Smart Ticketing Initiative.