More than 9,000 women across the West Midlands whose state pensions have been pushed back by several years would get a free travel pass under proposals announced today (Friday March 15).
The passes would be valid on the region’s bus and tram network and available to those women who are worst affected by changes to the state pension age.
The proposed Women’s Concessionary Travel Scheme Pass will be put before the Board of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) on March 22 and if approved will come into effect from July 7.
Under the proposed scheme women born between March 6, 1954 and up to November 5, 1954 would qualify for the free travel pass.
More than 9,000 women affected by changes to the state pension age would be eligible for the free bus and tram pass
The proposals have been drawn up by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the WMCA, following a request from the combined authority's Board which had been considering concerns raised by local campaign group WASPI (Women Against State Pension Injustice).
The Board, which includes the leaders of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton councils along and Mayor of the West Midlands, asked TfWM to look at ways of providing travel support for women forced to wait longer than originally planned to get their free travel pass.
Cllr Roger Lawrence, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “We have been listening carefully to the points raised by WASPI and as a result we gave a commitment some time ago that the WMCA would consider a scheme as part of our 2019/20 budget.
“The Board feels this is the right thing to do for those women most affected by the state pension age changes.
“We hope it will help ease the frustration of those women who are hardest hit by the changes and forced to wait far longer than they ever expected for their state pension and free travel pass.”
Cllr Lawrence said free travel passes were often a lifeline for older people, helping them to get out and about and connect with friends and family.
Bridget Green, of the Birmingham Waspi Group, said: “We would urge the Board to approve this scheme next Friday.
“Doing so will provide a small chink of light for women who are facing a much wider injustice because of changes to the pension age.
“A free bus pass will at least help ease some of the financial hardship that these unfair changes have caused us.
“So we are grateful to the WMCA for drawing up this scheme and that our case has finally been recognised at long last.”
The scheme would be in addition to TfWM’s wider concessionary pass offer which already provides free bus, rail and tram travel for older people, the blind and disabled as well as half price fares for children, students, apprentices and trainees.
It would provide free off-peak travel (9.30am – 11.59pm Monday to Friday and all day on weekends and public holidays) on bus and Metro within the metropolitan West Midlands.
If the scheme is approved by the WMCA board then women will be able to pre-register their interest in having a pass from 2pm on Friday, March 22 at Networkwm.com/womens-concessions
A report to the WMCA Board next Friday (March 22) also includes a commitment by TfWM to closely monitor the scheme once it is up and running to see if there are ways to extend it to even more women.
The delayed pension age is the result of changes designed to increase the state pension age of women from 60 to 65, bringing them in line with men.
The plan was to phase in that change between 2010 and 2020. However, in 2010 the timetable was accelerated with the new qualifying age of 65 for women bought forward to 2018, before being raised again to 66 by October 2020.
As a result those women born in the early 1950s who were getting closer to their state pension age, were made to wait almost an extra five years longer to claim their state pension.
UPDATE: The WMCA Board unanimously approved at the Women’s Concessionary Travel Scheme Pass at the meeting on March 22.