Oxford City Council Concessionary Travel Scheme Concessionary bus passengers are often concerned that zero-value concessionary tickets issued to them by bus drivers appear to mis-state the actual destination of the passenger. Passengers may be worried that the Council will be “over-charged” for the journey made, and have regularly raised this concern with elected members and Council staff. The fact is that with the Council’s present arrangements for reimbursing bus operators, there is not a direct relationship between the length of a passenger’s journey and the payment that the bus operator receives for carrying that passenger. So it makes no difference to the operator – or to the Council – if drivers accurately record concessionary passenger destinations, or do not. The key thing is to ensure that drivers accurately records all concessionary zero fare journeys as such, and that no fare paying passengers are recorded as making a concessionary journey.
Accurate estimation of the fare revenue that the operator would receive from concessionary passengers if there was no concessionary scheme is a very complex and controversial topic, in which practical considerations are as important as theoretical accuracy. Estimates of the fare that would be paid for concessionary journeys is only one aspect of this. The method used by the City Council uses the average cash fare actually paid by non-concessionary passengers as a proxy for the average fare that would be paid by concessionary passengers in the absence of the scheme. This avoids the practical problems of having to accurately record the actual destinations of all concessionary passengers. It means that errors in recording concessionary passengers have no impact on the amount of reimbursement received by operators. Other concessionary travel schemes do use the destinations stated by passengers to estimate the fare, but the accuracy of this method relies upon both passengers precisely identifying where they are alighting, and accurate recording of this by the driver. It should be noted that it will often be the case that the alighting stage recorded by the driver will not be the same as the destination stated by the passengers. This does not necessarily imply an error on the part of the driver. The reason is that fares may not vary between alternative alighting stops – indeed, in
Oxford, there are very few distinct fares, so that the same fare is charged for a very large number of specific bus stop to bus stop journeys. So there is no need for drivers to record the precise destination – and if the driver was require do so, this would significantly slow down bus operations and make all passengers’ journeys slower. The conclusion is that concessionary passengers should not be concerned if their zero-fare ticket shows a different alighting point to that stated to the driver. It does not imply that the Council will get charged more for the concessionary journey, and in any case is quite likely not to reflect any error on the part of the driver.