Grumpy Old Man – Freedom Pass (Eventually!)
As I’m older than I look, well that is my impression anyway, the time has now passed when eventually I am entitled to my Freedom Pass giving me access to all Transport For London public transport services for free. This pass used to be an automatic when you reached 65 for men and 60 for women, but in these days of equality, there has to be some middle ground and an age close to 62 has been designated as the grand date when you receive your pass.
At 60, you are allowed to buy an equivalent product called the 60+ Pass which costs a tenner, but that is only equal to about 7 bus journeys so is well worth the outlay as it lasts from your 60th birthday through to the day you actually receive your full blown Freedom Pass.
I did not find out about this intermediate option until I was nearly 61 so missed a year of free transport costs, but definitely got my money back ten or twenty fold when I eventually opted in. When you do sign up for this card, they tell you that the details will be held on file and passed to your local authority in time for them to process the application for your Freedom Pass.
My 60+ was due to run out on the 24th July and I read the TfL website which said that before the due date, they would be passing my details across to my local council, Barnet, and they would issue me the document for processing by the Post Office.
I’m a relatively patient man so, with other pressures around me, this slipped my mind until about the middle of July, a few days before my paid for pass expired, that I had not received anything as yet. I called the council and they know nothing. I called TfL and they, likewise, knew nothing so eventually I called the people responsible for the 60+ card and spoke to an absolute idiot there!
According to them, the deadline for them to do anything had passed so it was now down to me to get the forms, a picture and take this into the Post Office for processing, but the idiot then told me that the usual time for issue was 3-4 weeks meaning I would have to pay like the great unwashed now if I took public transport.
Feeling outraged, I asked why this had occurred and the idiot spent about fifteen minutes explaining about the high volumes of applications, the computer system was overloaded, they were short staffed until eventually, when pushed, he admitted that they had dropped the proverbial ball!
They should have processed my application around the end of May so that the forms were with me for processing through the Post Office to be available before the 60+ expired, but that mine, along with probably a few hundred more, had been missed!
Now, at this point, I would have thought an apology would have been in order, but they were never going to say sorry so I gave up and started pulling the documents together from their web site.
So the next Friday, I arrived at my local Post Office with the forms and a print of the exact same photo that I had used for the 60+ card, as approved by TfL, to be told by the friendly lady on the counter that there was too much background and not enough of me and that the photo should fit into the space on the form for scanning by the issuer.
So home I went and edited my photo to get more of me and less of the background, but by then it was too late to get there so planned a visit the next morning. I arrived and found the same charming woman serving me who then told me the picture was not suitable as I was sort of smiling and my head was slightly to the side.
I explained that TfL were happy with this previously, but she refused to accept my completed form with the picture. I told her that she had not said this last night to which she replied that it was a different picture! Still being a patient man, I showed her my 60+ card with the picture digitised to size and the copy I had in my hand, but she was having none of it.
I walked out and visited SnappySnaps and they took my passport sized photo and £7 of my money, less my Waitrose partner discount, and I returned 30 minutes later to end up with the same blinking teller again wondering what she was going to reject me for this time.
I said “Hello again” and smiled, but got a blank look as she took my forms. She read every line as she had done twice before and then pointed out that the form was unsigned and started to push everything back towards me! At this point I indicated the box for signature and suggested that she read the notes above which stated that you only sign the form at the Post Office. She looked rather miffed and I signed the form and she, rather begrudgingly, accepted my application.
As I was now virtually out of date with my 60+ card, I asked politely when I could expect my Freedom Pass and was told that she had no idea, she just collected the forms and sent them off! I thanked her for her courteous responses over the past two days and wished her well for the day. As her buzzer went for the next customer, I passed him and warned him that she was a real “jobsworth” as I could see he had the papers for some form of traffic form replacement and left him to it!
Anyway, the outcome was that last week, I received my brand spanking new Freedom Pass so travel is no object. Well as long as I stay north of the Thames and do not want to travel before 9:30am!
Hope you enjoy my misfortunes and share a comment with me below or, even better, share you own experiences of the Post Office or other friendly government organisations!