Additional checks are being introduced on buses across the region to ensure that passes meant for older and disabled people are not misused.
Smart ticket machines on buses operating in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, County Durham and the Tees Valley have been programmed to indicate immediately whether a bus pass has been cancelled by the local authority.
Where a pass is not valid the customer may be asked to pay the appropriate fare and the pass may be confiscated by the driver, following an initial amnesty period this autumn.
This period of reprieve is to allow those innocently using a cancelled pass to resolve the problem.
Passengers are being advised of the change by the North East Combined Authority (NECA) and Tees Valley Combined Authority.
More than a million journeys every week are made in the North East by passengers with concessionary bus passes, costing local transport authorities tens of millions each year in payments to bus companies.
The new checks will reduce potential misuse and fraud while protecting passengers who are entitled to and benefit from concessionary travel.
Coun Nick Forbes, lead member for transport on the North East Combined Authority, said: “Free travel on buses is a really important benefit for older and disabled people paid for by local councils. Smart ticketing now means we have the technology to make sure concessionary travel is enjoyed by those it is intended for, without potential misuse or fraud.
“We’re working together as local authorities with bus companies across the North East to make sure there is a smooth process to identify and remove those card which should not be in circulation.”
The machines will be able to detect if a pass has been cancelled by the local transport authority which issued it, if for example:
The pass has been reported lost or stolen and a replacement issued.
The pass has been reported as being used fraudulently by someone other the rightful holder.
The holder is no longer entitled to concessionary travel.
The pass has been replaced by a more recent pass.
It is estimated that about one in 40 passes in the North East is in use despite being cancelled.