Northern Ireland

Free travel protest held in Belfast

Protesters in Belfast City Centre on Saturday. Picture from BBC.
Protesters in Belfast City Centre on Saturday. Picture from BBC. Protesters in Belfast City Centre on Saturday. Picture from BBC.

A protest has been held in Belfast over plans to raise the minimum age for free public transport.

Crowds of people gathered in Belfast City Centre on Saturday to voice their opposition at plans to raise the free travel age to 65 or 67.

Currently, a SmartPass offering free bus and rail travel is currently available for people aged 60-64.

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The Department for Infrastructure is now asking members of the public if they support increasing the free travel age to 65, or the state retirement age, which is set to rise to 67.

Any future changes to the regulations may also have implications for disabled people who use public transport.

In England the age for free travel has already risen to 66, while it remains at 60 in both Scotland and Wales.

A campaign group, ‘Defend Free Travel Passes Campaign’, has been set up to highlight concerns over the proposed changes suggesting that if they go ahead a lifeline will be cut for older people and those at risk of social isolation.

The potential move has been described as  “particularly cruel” during a cost-of-living crisis and a “retrograde step” in environmental  terms.

The trade union Unison held a similar protest in Belfast last week.