Freedom pass = Free to Pass?

6 09 2008

Freedom Passes can be confusing to use. Freedom Pass holders are not told when and where they can use it. We have to try and find out for ourselves. What’s worse, it seems that even Transport for London staff don’t know the regulations. We’re all told we can’t use the Freedom Pass on the trains before 9.30am. But check out the official Freedom Pass leaflet LBS07/08 produced by London Councils, who fund the Freedom Passes. Note the first box, ‘Travelling Times’. It says that for the London Overground, ‘holders of the Disabled person’s freedom pass can travel free at all times’.

The London Overground (view map here) runs on a number of lines but it doesn’t cover a very comprehensive area. My guess is it’s easier for staff to control Freedom Pass travel if it’s contained within certain train lines. Therefore national train networks aren’t covered, even though they do operate within the London boroughs. It’s bloody annoying.

I came across this post in an internet forum. Mike notes that the Freedom Pass application form says “See information leaflet LBS07/08 revised Feb 2008 for further details, which will be given to you with your pass”. He never got the leaflet and he can’t find anybody in the Post Office or tube station, who admits to having heard of it.

And no, I’d never seen one either, until Fiona showed me hers.

Fiona tried to stand up for her rights and travelled on an overground train with her Freedom Pass before 9am. The LU staff said they didn’t know anything about the train concessions. She even had a copy of LBS07/08 with her and showed this to them. They refused to believe the regulations stated in the leaflet and fined her. Fiona sent in a complaint and asked for a refund of her ticket. It was denied.

It seems to me, London councils think disabled Londoners don’t or can’t work, therefore don’t need a Freedom Pass before 9.30am. Disabled doesn’t equal old and incapable. In fact, I only know of one disabled person who doesn’t work, and she is incapable. The trains are often the safest means of transport for those with disabilities, as the tube is too crowded and stations are often inaccessible, and bus drivers drive like maniacs and tell Guide Dog owners to either go upstairs or to get off. It’s like a Monopoly game, isn’t it? Three steps forward and two steps back.

My dog came up with an alternative suggestion … hehehe.

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2 responses

6 09 2008
Ian Noon

I can’t believe the refund was denied. Has your friend tried writing into her local MP? It seems ridiculously unfair.

11 02 2016
po8crg

Not that it’s much help, but I can tell you why the freedom pass only applies before 9:30 on some lines.

Things run directly by Transport for London, they can change the rules themselves, so when they introduced the freedom pass, they could just accept it. So that works for the Underground, for DLR, for buses and for Overground, all of which are owned and run by TfL.

But for the rail system, outside of London Overground, that’s run by private companies under contract with the Department for Transport. So TfL’s only option is to try to negotiate an agreement with those companies. Which means that TfL will have to pay them every time you use your freedom pass – basically, they have to buy a ticket for you.

Now, your disabled person’s railcard gives you a discount on all rail travel off-peak (ie after 9:30 am), so the amount TfL pay is pretty small. And those trains are usually not full, so the rail companies might well agree a discount for TfL to buy tickets – any money coming in is better than none, after all.

But to allow you to use it during peak hours, TfL would have to pay for full-price tickets. And the rail companies aren’t inclined to discount much, because those trains are so full that there’s a good chance that you travelling means someone else waiting on the platform. TfL just doesn’t have enough money to pay for that.

Maybe, when the franchises come up for renewal, TfL can persuade DfT to include Freedom Pass acceptance as part of the contract. That’s how they got the Oyster Card accepted by the rail companies in the first place – they didn’t want to take them (they wanted to force passengers to buy a separate rail ticket, where the rail company gets all the money), but it was put in as a condition of them being allowed to run trains.

This is why TfL is taking over more and more London rail services and bringing them into the Overground – so they have direct control and they can just change policies, rather than having to throw a lot of money into the pockets of private rail companies.

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