“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” So sang Joni Mitchell in Big Yellow Taxi all those years ago. Her words came back to me as I searched frantically for my Older Persons Freedom Pass earlier this week. Familiarity meant I had taken for granted what is a major money saving asset.
It was bad enough that I had to pay over £6 for a Tube into central London and back again just the once. But the prospect of paying for many such journeys until I received a replacement from my local council was a miserable one.
Fortunately on my return, I discovered that rather than accidentally throwing the pass away as I had feared, it was sitting in a jacket pocket in my wardrobe waiting to be reunited with its relieved owner.
Londoners of my generation received their passes (see example above) on turning sixty. It entitles us to free public transport across the capital and a good deal, of what I consider, beyond.
It is an important benefit and justifies its ‘freedom' tag. Given its role in improving the lives of older people, it’s surprising that its brand strength isn’t exploited by links to outside companies.
This might help off-set the expense of the scheme, which is paid for by a combination of council tax and national grant.
Its soaring cost has led to eligibility rising in graduated stages to 65 by 2020. There is some pressure to have the age increase accelerated for completion by 2018.
It would be nice to think that by the time my children are eligible for their passes in 40 or so years, the capital’s transport system will be the pride of Londoners and not one of their major moans.