Consultation response from the women's policy group Northern Ireland.

Worldwide, women use transport differently to men and they tend to use it far more. In her book titled ‘Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias,’ Caroline Criado Perez highlights that, according to her research, women tend to “trip-chain”; which means they take several short journeys regularly, rather than long journeys occasionally. Criado Perez suggests this is a function of caring responsibilities; women are more likely to drop children to school, to travel onwards to another destination, and to return to collect the children from school, and then drop the children home. This increases in frequency if the children in their care attend different schools, or finish at different times.

Overall, women are ‘25% more likely to trip-chain’, Criado Perez adds, ‘this figure rises to 39% if there is a child older than nine in the household’. Indeed across Europe, the burden of school drop offs and pick ups mainly falls on women. Women in dual-worker families are twice as likely as men to drop off or pick up children on their commute. Women also tend to bear the largest part of the burden with regards to grocery shopping.

Meanwhile, while women in receipt of the over-60s SmartPass may not have children of their own attending school, many find themselves helping with their grandchildren to enable their own children to work; in Northern Ireland where childcare is so often unaffordable or inaccessible and the state has done little to help, this is even more relevant. According to the 2021 Northern Ireland Childcare Survey by Employers for Childcare, 43% of households with children use a mix of formal and informal childcare, 13% use informal childcare exclusively, and from this combined total of 56%, 55% rely on grandparents to provide some or all of their childcare. In practice, the burden of school drop-offs and pick-ups will fall mostly on grandmothers, and any rolling-back of SmartPasses will disproportionately impact this ability to help their families out in this vital way. Women are less likely to have access to cars than men, particularly if they share a one-car household with a man. Free public transport becomes women’s ticket to participation in public life; this is particularly true for women in rural areas. Social isolation is a significant issue for women living in rural areas; free and discounted public transport is a key tool to tackling this issue. The Department also notes that the Scheme increases independence and promotes good health outcomes. For people with disabilities and older people, who are at a higher risk of exclusion from public life, this is a lifeline.

This is an excerpt from the WPG NI Response to Department for Infrastructure Consultation on Concessionary Fares