Anyone using somebody else’s bus pass to travel in Brighton & Hove could soon find themselves in court for fraud.
A bus pass amnesty is being staged in the city throughout March, ahead of a crackdown on fare-dodging.
Concessionary Travel passes are issued to older or qualifying disabled people. The council, working with local bus services, has started investigating use of these passes throughout the city. A recent sample has indicated that a number of ineligible passes may still be being used to make journeys.
Using a bus pass issued to someone else is fraud, under the law. This includes using a pass which has been reported lost, stolen or damaged. In some cases, these may find their way back into circulation alongside replacement cards, having been given to friends or relatives.
The council stresses it is not seeking to review the eligibility of older or disabled individuals to have passes. It is only trying to ensure that ineligible people are not using passes issued to others.
In January, the authority secured the city’s first-ever prosecution for fraudulent use of a bus pass. A Hove woman was fined £860 for using a card issued to her grandmother. Two more cases are expected in March.
In future, all passes must be swiped through the bus’s on-board scanner, not just shown to the driver.
During March anyone using a pass that does not work on the card reader will be warned it will not be accepted for travel after March. Replacements can be ordered online here
Alternatively passengers can visit the council’s customer service centre at Hove Town Hall to request a replacement pass.
There are 43,000 bus passes circulating in the city - 36,000 held by older people, the rest by disabled passengers. The £10m cost consumes almost all of the surplus from parking charges and fines in the city. A quarter of all bus journeys are made using a concessionary pass. The city has one of the highest rates of bus use in the country, outside London, with over 40 million journeys a year.
Chair of the council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee Cllr Gill Mitchell said: “The cost of travel aimed at older or disabled people is met from the public purse. So it’s clearly wrong to take advantage of those services if you’re not entitled to. We’re tightening up on misuse of cards and giving everyone a reasonable four-week period to ensure their pass is in order.”
A poster will appear on buses during March