Freedom Pass is a concessionary travel scheme, which began in 1973, to provide free travel to residents of Greater London, England, for people with a disability or over the progressively increasing women's state pension age (60 in 2010, currently 66 until about 2026). The scheme is funded by local authorities and coordinated by London Councils. Originally the pass was a paper ticket, but since 2004 it has been encoded on to a contactless smartcard compatible with Oyster card readers.
The scheme was created in 1973 by the Greater London Council, although there had been concessionary bus fare schemes in London before that. When the council was abolished in 1986, responsibility for the scheme passed to the London borough councils. The cost of providing the travel concession is negotiated between London Councils and the local transport operator Transport for London. It is funded through a mixture of national grant and council tax. In 2007 there was a dispute between Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and London Councils on the negotiation process, in particular the ability for the Greater London Authority to impose a charge should no agreement be reached.
There are two type of Freedom Passes: an Older Person's Freedom Pass (OPFP) and a Disabled Person's Freedom Pass (DPFP); the former has a blue right hand edge band and the latter a yellow one to enable transport operators to quickly identify which concessions are applicable. They originally provided identical facilities, but the OPFP later had restriction on some use at busy times.
Greater London residents aged 60 before 6 April 2010 were eligible for an OPFP, increasing progressively in line with the women's state pension age to 66 from 2020 to about 2026. London residents over 60 but below Freedom Pass age are eligible for a 60+ Oyster card on payment of £20, with all the benefits of the Freedom Pass within Greater London, but not valid on buses outside Greater London.
Disabled residents are, if they do not automatically qualify (e.g. by being already certified as blind), assessed to determine whether their degree of disability allows issue of a disabled person's pass. In early 2010 the responsibility for judging the degree of disability passed to local councils, and there were complaints of people who had been assessed as needing a pass for many years not having their passes renewed although their condition had not improved. DPFPs are not available for carers.
London Residents with specified disabilities are entitled by the Transport Act 2000 to a DPFP. Some boroughs additionally issue discretionary Freedom Passes to disabled people who do not meet the statutory eligibility criteria.
People with statutory disabilities entitling them to a DPFP are:
The Freedom Pass is normally valid at all times on London Underground, London Overground, Elizabeth line, London Buses, Tram, and Docklands Light Railway services in Greater London. Until January 2009 the pass was only valid on weekdays from 9:00; suspension during the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the UK from 2020 was introduced on 15 June 2020, excluding use of the OPFP and 60+ pass from 4:30 to 9:00. This was intended to be temporary, but was made permanent on 18 January 2023.
It is accepted at most times on many rail services in and outside Greater London that are within London fare zones 1–9.
Outside Greater London the card can be used for free travel on any local bus route in England (but not Scotland or Wales) wherever and whenever the English National Concessionary Bus Travel Scheme applies. Travel on working days before 9:30 and after 23:00 is excluded, although some operators may extend hours of validity.
Since 2015 OPFPs have been valid for five years, and could be renewed when expired.
Up-to-date information, which changes from time to time, is available on the TfL and the Association of London Councils websites.
On some services the Older Person's Freedom Pass is not valid during the morning rush hour (until 9:00 or 9:30); there are fewer restrictions on the Disabled Person's pass.
The Freedom Pass is not valid for travel on many longer-distance train services even if they stop within Greater London (many such journeys are prohibited for all passengers by "stops for picking up/setting down only" restrictions) or for non-TfL trains to Heathrow airport. Routes and times of validity of Freedom Passes on the rail network are published and updated as necessary. Freedom Pass validity for these services is less than that of Oyster cards. For travel through and beyond the Freedom Pass area, separate extension tickets starting at the Freedom Pass boundary may be bought.
For travel which crosses the boundary of the area of validity of the Freedom Pass at a time and on a service where the Pass is valid, it is normally necessary to buy a ticket only for the section not covered by the Pass, i.e. a ticket from the Freedom Pass boundary, or from a named station within the zone of validity. In the latter case where multiple operators exist but only one calls at the boundary station, it can sometimes be cheaper to buy a ticket for the cheaper operator from the last station at which their trains call before the boundary rather than the boundary station (e.g. "Thameslink only" from East Croydon rather than "Any Operator" from Coulsdon South).
The Freedom Pass is not valid on long-distance coach services which are not operating a long-term service with a majority of seats not requiring reservation; other restrictions apply on bus or coach services which are not operating as a stage carriage (in summary, a service of any distance using buses or coaches providing local services) or in substitution of a railway service on which the Freedom Pass would be valid. They are not valid for any travel purposes in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
A lost, stolen, damaged, or faulty pass can be replaced on application. There is a charge of £12 for loss or damage, not applicable if the pass is stolen and a police crime reference number has been obtained, and refundable if the pass is returned and found on examination to be faulty rather than damaged.
A faulty or damaged Freedom Pass that does not function as a contactless Oyster card remains valid for travel until replaced; it must be presented for manual inspection. The Freedom Pass website warns that the transport operator's staff will inspect the pass closely to confirm validity, and suggests carrying additional proof of identity; a pass whose validity is doubted may not be accepted.
Since November 2012 Greater London residents aged 60 or over who do not qualify for a Freedom Pass are eligible for a 60+ Oyster card on payment of a £20 administration fee; this restores the entitlement to free (at the time of use) travel from the age of 60 that was removed when the general qualifying age for concessionary travel was tied by national legislation to the national retirement age in 2010. The 60+ Oyster card is valid on the same services within Greater London and some adjacent places as the Freedom Pass but is not valid for travel elsewhere in England.
In 2022, Prime Minister Boris Johnson falsely claimed to have introduced the Freedom Pass during an interview where he was questioned about a pensioner having to ride the bus all day to save on heating costs during the 2021–2022 global energy crisis. As Mayor of London, he was responsible for the 2012 changes, but the pass itself predates his term by several decades. It was also pointed out that one of the conditions of his government's TFL bailout during the COVID-19 pandemic involved new restrictions imposed on the use of the Freedom Pass.