Elderly of Leeds struggling to adapt to online bus support

Campaigners have accused regional transport bosses of using technology to exclude elderly people from using bus services.

Monday, 25th March 2019, 4:19 pm
Updated Monday, 25th March 2019, 4:23 pm
Campaigners say bus services are becoming too complicated for many elderly people to use, due to an over-reliance on online support.

It follows recent changes from West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), to move more of its services online.

But an elderly people’s support group based in Otley claims it has had more than 100 requests for assistance from elderly people who are unable to use online services.

Sarah McNab, outreach and development worker at Otley Action for Elderly People said: “We have had a lot of requests for bus pass renewals – at one point we were getting about 10 a week.

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Campaigners say bus services are becoming too complicated for many elderly people to use, due to an over-reliance on online support.

“They used to be able to apply by post but they changed this to an online form. We are talking about people in their 80s and 90s – some of them have never even used a computer.

“Their other option is to get a bus into Leeds. This is too far for them and a lot of them won’t know where they are going when they get there – it may as well be the other side of the world.”

She said the service has had calls from elderly people living in neighbouring areas such as Yeadon and Menston asking for help filling in online forms.

“They have not got the equipment,” Sarah added. “It feels like they are trying to deter people from renewing their bus pass. It’s like they don’t want them to use the bus.

“There are people who rely on buses. A lot of people give up driving in their late 70s – so this is taking away their independence as they are making it more difficult to access.

“There should be a dual option for the elderly not to have to use online services – it’s like they are assuming people are online and many of them are not.”

Transport enthusiast Paul Kirby added that WYCA’s new “digital first” bus information strategy was phasing out the printing of paper timetables, moving much of the information online, and making it difficult for many elderly people to access the information.

A WYCA spokesperson said: “With 650,000 West Yorkshire bus timetables being downloaded each month, our Metro website delivering two and a half million pages of travel information every month and 4.6 million monthly uses of our real-time bus information service. This new bus information strategy responds to the way people are accessing travel information, which is digital first.

“However the strategy acknowledges that there are some people who still want information on paper. It recommends gradually withdrawing expenditure of public funds on the mass printing of timetables, many of which can go unused, but ensuring printed information can be provided on-demand.

“The new bus information strategy does not cover the application processes for senior passes that have been used by West Yorkshire’s 400,000 pass-holders, which remain unchanged.

“People can apply for and renew senior passes that give them free-off-peak bus travel via www.wymetro.com or at Bus Station Travel Centres and we do encourage people who have senior friends and relatives to help them out or go through the simple application process on their behalf.”