The long awaited sixth part of our beginners’ guide to bus operations returns

Passengers of a certain age may remember a time when Greater Manchester’s municipal and private operations had a varying degree of concessionary fare rates. Some didn’t introduce concessionary fares till the 1960s.

For concessionary fares, the average fare would be half the adult level, but before 1969, fare levels would differ from corporation to corporation. There would sometimes be a different fare stage for crewed buses compared with one-person-operated buses. Then came SELNEC, and the introduction of standard fare rates throughout what is now Greater Manchester.

By 1974, Greater Manchester Transport eschewed half fares in favour of a flat fare to reduce boarding times. In 1974, that was 2p, applying to pensioners and persons aged 4 – 16. This would change in 1984 when the age range became 5 – 16. Passengers aged 13 – 16 would have to produce an ‘Under 16’ photocard when required to avoid being charged 30p on the 339 instead of 10p to the Albion Hotel.

Nowadays we have gone full circle. Instead of municipalities, it is the differing fare structures of the big bus owning groups and independent operators which we have to contend with. Owing to government cutbacks and the more urgent need to retain socially necessary bus routes, Greater Manchester PTE – later Transport for Greater Manchester from the 01 April 2011 – reverted to the half fare concessionary system. Therefore, the average schoolchild who makes casual journeys on the 343 has three different fare stages to memorise (unless of course they have a System One season ticket of some description).

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For the average non-bus user, or less regular bus user, concessionary rate is often half fare. Not entirely true. Concessionary fares could either be free or two-thirds the adult fare dependent on passes held and locality. Thanks to the introduction of a national concessionary fare system for aged persons and people with disabilities, the free pass in its electronic form is a more common identifier.

All the world’s a fare stage, and all the men and women merely passengers:

Infancy: free travel till the age of five, buggies welcome subject to space with fare paying passengers.

Childhood: often half fare or two-thirds fare without need of appropriate pass till eleven years of age.

Scholars’ Permits: free travel to and from the school during school hours subject to distance from pupil’s home. If over a certain distance, he or she could claim that concession so long as travel is to and from school, college or semi-privatised academy.

Adolescence: as above with an Under-16 type of identification card, such as TfGM’s iGo pass.

Senior Citizens: free outside the peak hours, all day weekends and Bank Holidays.

Disability Travel Concessions: as above, or sometimes free all hours within locality (Concession Plus pass) and outside the peaks throughout England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland though not throughout the whole of the United Kingdom.

How Are Concessionary Fares Funded?

Each concessionary fare is logged on a ticket machine, either by means of the driver pressing a button or the passenger scanning his or her card on the machine. Sometimes, the driver may ask where he or she is going and issue a ticket. The details of concessionary fares issued would be reported back to (in our case) Transport for Greater Manchester, Transport for London, other Integrated Transport Authorities and County Councils.

Therefore, the concessionary fare subsidy would be meted out by the above parties with bus operators recompensed. Hence, in the last five years, the return of half fares whilst retaining concessions for ENCTS pass holders in PTE areas and Derbyshire County Council opting for two-thirds fares throughout its county. Though this lessens the impact on cuts to subsidised bus routes, the cost can be prohibitive for occasional bus users.

Forgetting Your Concessionary Pass

The usual protocol means yours truly, the passenger would have to pay the full fare. With child concessions, some operators might offer a reduced fare for teenagers who forget their Under-16 photocard. For example, if somebody forgets their iGo card whilst aboard the 83, the operator [First Greater Manchester in this case], the driver could charge the passenger two-thirds the adult fare.


Whereas the ENCTS permits offer free travel throughout either England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, localities may offer further concessions. In TfGMland where I live, holders of concession passes for people with disabilities can also travel free outside the peaks by rail and tram within the conurbation. Unless they have the Concession Plus pass, it is half fare on peak hour buses (free on the Concession Plus pass on peak hour bus, train and tram journeys within Greater Manchester).

Similar concessions apply to aged persons, though travel before 0930 on weekdays mean full fare. This has been the case since the 01 April 2011 in Greater Manchester. Free travel is available on trains and trams outside the peaks.

Where Next?

By 2015, we should be swanning about on our Get Me Theres across three modes of transport. There’s every chance that future designs of the ENCTS pass within Greater Manchester may echo the Mancunian answer to London’s Oyster Card. Then again, we said that in the 1950s about jet packs in the 1980s (instead we caught MCW Metrobuses to Ashton). Who knows?

7 thoughts on “Duffers’ Guide to Bus Operations #6: Concessionary Fares

  1. Hi Stuart another interesting fact is the holders of ENCTS passes no matter where they are issued now get free travel on Blackpool’s Trams (not the vintage ones I’m afraid) and also Sheffield Supertram, not sure how it works on Blackpools Trams but on Sheffield Supertram you show your pass the the conductor on the tram who then scans it against their ticket machine to check the validity, actually now I think of it this is where Railway TOCs and Metrolink are missing a trick as if there was a way of them registering passes I’m guessing they could recoup some money back but until there is I’m guessing they’ll just be losing out


    1. Hi Andrew,

      Could that be down to the fact Blackpool’s standard tram routes come under the same jurisdiction as the municipal buses, and is in effect a ‘bus’ in terms of validity? More of the same given how Stagecoach Supertram is ran in semi-cooperation with Stagecoach Yorkshire buses in Sheffield?

      That’s interesting as the TfGM Concessionary Fares leaflet states you cannot use your Concession Plus on trains and trams outside Greater Manchester. Perhaps the fact it is seen as a ‘bus’ might be a loophole, so it could be that with Sheffield and Blackpool, though not with Nottingham’s trams, the Midland Metro and Croydon Tramlink. (And as always, anything on the leaflet can be subject to change).

      Bye for now,



  2. You can’t use your pass on the Blackpool trams after 6pm Fri-Sun during the illuminations. I heard talk that next year only Blackpool and Lancashire passes will be allowed free travel on the trams.


    1. Hi Gerald,

      I suppose that will be a patronage issue, owing to how busy the trams may be at those times. Furthermore, concessionary passes wouldn’t be valid on the special trams, as they would be classed as a special service/excursion.

      With regards to the Blackpool Transport/NoW concessionary fares, I suppose this ascertains why Transport for Greater Manchester’s literature says ‘not valid on trams outside Greater Manchester’. Though conditions may vary of course.

      Bye for now,



      1. My wife gave up her pass for taxi vouchers (bad mistake) so she had to pay on the trams – but £14 for a weekly ticket was good value. For the weekend post-6pm period though – the no free pass thing applied to locals as well but the weekly ticket I’d got for my wife was valid and as she stayed in the hotel each evening I was able to use that to travel with so we did OK.


      2. Hi Gerald,

        I wondered whether the Illuminations Clause applied to local passengers as well as less local passengers with concessionary passes. Considering the weekly ticket covers the trams, Blackpool Transport’s weekly pass is very good value for money. It seems to cover a similar area to Stagecoach Manchester’s Megarider.

        An all systems pass for the Fylde Coast could be a boon though, in addition to single operator offerings by Blackpool Transport, Stagecoach North West and Classic Bus North West. Then again, the corporation’s offerings include tram travel which is a deal breaker for exploring the Fylde Coast by both modes.

        Bye for now,



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