Anti-fraud measures tackle concessionary travel scams

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A SCAM in which bus companies are defrauding Scotland’s concessionary travel scheme is costing taxpayers millions, according to new figures.

Instances of “over staging” – in which over-60s or disabled passengers who are entitled to free bus trips are given a ticket for a longer journey than they in fact made – have increased more than six-fold over the past two years, it was reported today.

Figures show there were 208 cases of the scam last year – up from 31 in 2009.

However, Transport Scotland, the Government agency that manages the scheme, said new anti-fraud measures were making a difference and helping to claw some of the money back.

Agency bosses said automated ticketing machines on buses and new back-office data analysis technology were enabling them to identify passenger journeys recorded inaccurately and pursue prosecution cases against companies suspected of defrauding the scheme.

Bosses said the measures had allowed them to recoup £50,000 directly and that overall savings to the taxpayer through cutting out fraud and red tape are estimated to be £24m.

Ronnie Mellis, operations manager for concessionary travel at Transport Scotland, said: “The difference is almost immeasurable from the point at which we started.

“In 2006, claims [for reimbursement] were made in writing by bus operators and to check them out we had to send survey staff out to count the number of concessionary bus passengers. Now a single passenger is enough to tip us off. Or we can get a tip-off from the analysis of journeys.”