Surge in over-70s' bus travel despite told to avoid public transport

The number of over 70s travelling by bus in Scotland has increased by nearly 4,000 a day since lockdown started despite being urged to avoid public transport.

People over 60 are entitled to free bus travel in Scotland. Picture: Donald Stirling.

Travel by those aged 70 or over has increased by 30 per cent since the restrictions were imposed in March, new Transport Scotland figures showed today.

The rise – measured from the use of free bus passes – is the equivalent of an extra 3,800 journeys a day.

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This included a 3 per cent increase over the last week.

It has come despite the age group being classed as being at higher risk of developing severe illness with Covid-19.

The Scottish Government advised them to “avoid using public transport as much as possible”, stay at home and “significantly reduce unnecessary social contact”.

Transport secretary Michael Matheson said: “Our latest transport data shows the majority of people in Scotland are continuing to follow Government guidance and limit travel for essential journeys only.”

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However, car traffic increased by some 5 per cent compared to last week and is now 45 per cent higher than at the start of the lockdown.

Most of it was on local trips.

However, there was no notable increase over the bank holiday on Monday, with traffic levels were lower than the previous Monday.

The figures also showed that no notable increase in overall trips since people were permitted to exercise more than once a day.

The total number of daily trips per person fell slightly from 1.4 to 1.3, largely because of less walking, which may be because of less good weather.

There was also a fall in cycling, which may also have been due to the weather.

Age Scotland head of policy Adam Stachura said: “The increase observed in concessionary bus travel by those aged 70 plus is understandable and need not be cause for concern.

“Tens of thousands of older people have now been self-isolating for ten weeks, many of them living alone.

“Public transport may be the only way for many older people to pick up prescriptions, attend medical appointments and access shops - particularly if no other support is available.

“Strict physical distancing measures are in place to help minimise the dangers.

“What is most important now that lockdown measures are easing is people do not take undue risks.

“Providing they make sure they continue following expert NHS and Scottish Government advice, as well as practising safe physical distancing, there should be no issue with those over 70 travelling by bus.“

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