The new Scottish Government scheme, which provides 5-21-year-olds resident in Scotland with free access to bus travel, commenced on Monday 31 January 2022.
Applications for the Young Persons’ (Under 22s) Free Bus Travel initiative opened in January for every 5-21-year-old living in Scotland for more than 6 months of the year, via a valid National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot National Entitlement Card (Young Scot NEC).
Children and young people who are 5–21-years-old require new, replacement or updated NECs or Young Scot NECs to travel for free by bus. Parents, guardians or carers of 5–15-year-olds must apply on their behalf. Children under 5 years old already travel for free on bus services and do not need a card.
Young people aged between 16 and 21 who already have an active NEC or Young Scot NEC can download free bus travel onto their existing card using the Transport Scot Pass Collect app. This means they may not need to apply for a new card to access free bus travel. A video guide on how to use the app can be found below and it can be downloaded on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
From 31 January, the child or young person simply needs to board the bus and hold their new NEC to the card reader on top of the ticket machine, stating their destination to the driver if the service requires it. Once the card has been scanned and accepted for travel, they can take a seat on the bus and enjoy their journey free of charge.
Without a valid NEC, young people are still required to pay a fare or use another product in order to travel.
Any young people with pre-purchased bus tickets (Child CITYSINGLEtickets or time on a Junior Ridacard, for example) are advised to make use of them until they expire, as most pre-purchased ticketing products are non-refundable.
Lothian are participants in the scheme, which is a nationwide initiative by the Scottish Government, being delivered in partnership with the Improvement Service, National Entitlement Card Programme Office and Young Scot. If you have any questions about free bus travel, please visit the Transport Scotland website, or contact the Concessionary Travel and Integrated Ticketing Unit of Transport Scotland on 0141 272 7170 or by emailing [email protected]
We’ve provided answers to some frequently asked questions below which you may find useful. If you need further assistance from Lothian, please connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and we’ll do our best to help.
How do I apply for a new National Entitlement Card (NEC)/Young Scot NEC?
To apply for a new card online, please visit https://getyournec.scot/nec/. There is a step-by-step guide and you will be asked to provide certain details to prove your identity. Parents and guardians must apply on behalf of children under 16. New NEC cards will be delivered to the applicant’s home address once processed.
If you cannot apply online, please contact your Local Authority. Visit the Transport Scotland website to find your local authority’s contact information.
How do I use my National Entitlement Card (NEC)/Young Scot NEC on the bus?
When you board, please hold your card to the card reader on top of the ticket machine next to the bus driver to record your journey. Ask the driver if you have any questions. On services which have more than one fare, please tell the driver where you are travelling to, and wait for the driver to select this on the ticket machine before removing your card.
What do I do if my National Entitlement Card (NEC)/Young Scot NEC doesn’t work on the bus?
Like any other smartcard, if your new NEC becomes cracked or broken then it may not be able to be read, so please look after it. For information on how to apply for a replacement card go to getyournec.scot or contact your local authority. If your NEC has not worked on the bus, the scheme rules provide that you will need to pay any fares until the replacement arrives, so we would advise having an alternative method of payment just in case.
I’ve lost my card – can I travel for free without it?
No. Even if you (or your child) would appear to clearly be of an age eligible for free travel, you are legally required to produce your National Entitlement Card (NEC)/Young Scot NEC for travel every time you board the bus. If you do not have it, you will be required to pay a fare as standard.
How much will it cost to get a replacement card?
Replacements are free of charge.
My friend has lost their National Entitlement Card (NEC)/Young Scot NEC. Can they use mine?
No. It is only for you and you must not share it with anybody else.
If your card has a photo, then please keep it up-to-date, as the bus driver might not let you travel if you do not look like your photo. The photo on your Young Scot NEC also needs to be kept up to date to use it to prove your age for age-restricted products or services.
Can my access to free bus travel be stopped?
Yes, if you misuse the free bus travel scheme (such as letting someone else use your card), then you might have free bus travel removed from your card and it will therefore be rejected on our services.
Can I load my National Entitlement Card (NEC)/Young Scot NEC on an app rather than carrying the card?
No, you must have your NEC or Young Scot NEC with you and present it to the driver when boarding if you want to travel for free.
Where can I go under the free bus travel scheme?
You can travel Scotland-wide on local and long-distance bus services, apart from a few exceptions such as premium-fare night buses, sightseeing buses, and some airport transfer services. In the Lothian group, services excluded from the free bus travel scheme include Nightbus services, Airlink night-time journeys, and Edinburgh Bus Tours tour buses.