CORONAVIRUS LATEST: Call to increase bus pass hours to allow early shopping for elderly

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Essex County Council has been asked to waive the time limit that bus passes can be used so elderly people can reach supermarkets early.

Older people become eligible for a bus pass at 67. The passes allow concessionary travel between 9am and midnight, Monday to Friday, and at any time during the weekends.

But it means that many elderly people who rely on public transport cannot reach stores for free until well into trading – by which time many key items have often been sold.

Panic buying has led to key items such as toilet roll, tissues, rice, pasta and canned food much harder to obtain because of shoppers hoarding food.

The request from Councillor David Kendal comes as Suffolk County Council agreed to relax the conditions on its bus pass use.

In a letter to council leader David Finch, he said: “I have been contacted by some elderly residents regarding the start time for them being able to use their bus passes. As you know they can currently use them from 9am each day.

“Would it be possible to waive this restriction so that they can use their pass from 7am each day during this current crisis?

“This change would allow them to use their passes to do early morning shopping at stores that are opening up early for OAPs.

“Is there anything the county council could do to help with this request? I believe it would make a real difference to many of our elderly residents across the county.”

Sainsbury’s announced stores would only open to elderly and vulnerable people for the first hour of trading on Thursday.

Iceland outlets have also introduced reserved time slots to give the vulnerable and the elderly a chance to shop in store.

ECC was asked for a comment.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter