Peak time restrictions on concessionary tram and bus passes will be lifted during the early morning rush hour to make it easier for the region’s older citizens and disabled people to get their shopping.
It follows the decision by leading supermarkets to open early, or set aside the first hour of business exclusively for older clients and those most vulnerable to Covid-19.
Travel under the English National Concessionary Pass (ENCTS) is normally only valid for journeys taken after 9.30am.
Now Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), has joined forces with bus operators, including National Express to allow free travel before 9.30am for concessionary pass holders who have not yet self-isolated. The 9.30am restriction has also been lifted on the West Midlands Metro tram system, which is owned by the WMCA.
The change is effective from Thursday, 19th March and will continue until further notice.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “These are very difficult and worrying times for everyone, but especially our older citizens.
“Thankfully supermarkets have recognised this and are offering exclusive early shopping access so those who are not yet self-isolating can stock up while reducing their risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
“To help support this TfWM has agreed to extend the hours of the concessionary pass so older people can travel before 9.30am.
"TfWM will continue to do it all it can to help keep public transport moving during this challenging period."
Cllr Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “We are committed to help our most vulnerable citizens through this coronavirus outbreak as much as we can, and lifting peak time travel restriction is one way we can make life a little easier for some.
“We know shopping can be daunting right now, and these special shopping sessions for older people are a great idea, especially as a trip out in a safer environment can offer social interaction and break the feeling of isolation many will be feeling.”
Chris Gibbens, commercial director at National Express West Midlands, said: “Many of our customers pointed out that our senior citizens and disabled people can’t use their bus passes to access these special sessions in shops and banks.
“So I’m happy to say we’ve worked closely with Transport for West Midlands, via the West Midlands Bus Alliance, to make this free 0930 travel possible on all National Express bus services.
“We hope it will make it easier for the people of the West Midlands to cope better with the current situation.”