Northern Ireland

Belfast City Council submits objections to scrapping of free travel for over-60s

A consultation is ongoing on changes to the SmartPass free travel scheme.
A consultation is ongoing on changes to the SmartPass free travel scheme. A consultation is ongoing on changes to the SmartPass free travel scheme.

BELFAST City Council is urging Stormont's Department for Infrastructure not to abolish free public transport for the over-60s.

The department is consulting on proposed changes to Translink's SmartPass system that could see the age of eligibility raised from 60 to 65 or the state retirement age, which will rise to 67 in the coming years.

The proposed changes have already sparked protests in Belfast, where the city council has submitted its objections as part of the consultation.

A Belfast City Council report states: “Public transport enables older people to connect with social networks, and promotes social inclusion, by attending groups, activities, and programmes on offer across the city. If they couldn’t access these, there would be a sharp increase in levels of loneliness, social isolation and an impact on mental health issues."

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The report said that raising the SmartPass eligibility age would "threaten community links for local people".

However, the report adds that the council would consider means testing "those between the age of 60-64 who are in full time employment" to see if they require the SmartPass.

The Department for Infrastructure said the consultation has begun as the cost of the SmartPass scheme "has increased significantly and we anticipate it will continue to rise".