Travel Connections

In 2023, Leeds Older People’s Forum were awarded a grant through the Department for Transport’s Tackling loneliness with transport fund to deliver the Travel Connections project. The project focused on increasing digital inclusion opportunities for older people in engaging with taxi and bus apps. 100% Digital Leeds partnered with Leeds Older People’s Forum and identified six key community organisations to act as delivery partners:

  • Age UK Leeds
  • Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours Scheme
  • Holbeck Together
  • Leeds Irish Health and Homes
  • Morley Digital
  • Your Backyard

Project objectives

Leeds Older People’s Forum and 100% Digital Leeds worked with the delivery partners to identify the following key objectives:

  • Older people have greater awareness of, and feel confident to interact with, the full range of transport apps available in Leeds.
  • Older people can use transport apps to increase independence and social connections, reduce isolation.
  • Older people have improved digital skills and confidence.
  • Staff and volunteers across the partner organisations feel confident their ability to support older people to use transport apps.

100% Digital Leeds and Leeds Older People’s Forum set up a steering group with all delivery partners, enabling organisations to collaborate, and share experience and best practice.

The delivery partners identified key transport apps currently available in the city:

  • Uber
  • Amber Cars
  • UK Bus Checker
  • First Bus app
  • Moovit
  • Trainline
  • Flexi Bus app

The delivery partners worked with their service users to navigate the apps and identify potential barriers to use. Older people shared a lack of confidence in using the apps, with many expressing concerns over inputting their bank details into the apps without leaving themselves open to scams. Applying for a senior bus pass was identified as an additional challenge for older people as the process is digital. As a result, online safety and the senior bus pass application process were identified as additional project objectives.

Project delivery and initial outcomes

Each delivery partner took a person-centred approach, identifying any additional barriers to individuals using transport apps and tailoring their support to meet that specific need. Each organisation delivered their digital support in different ways. Some supported older people in small group settings, some one-to-one, and some via home visits, where service users were unable to travel to community settings. 

Many of the organisations designed and developed written guides to using the apps, highlighting each feature and how best to use it. The guides received positive feedback from service users and were brought together in a shared Google Drive, allowing all organisations to access them.

Holbeck Together

Holbeck Together found the initial barriers their service users faced were:

  • Lack of understanding of the range of apps available.
  • Lack of digital skills associated with practically using the apps, such as how to download them. 
  • Lack of understanding of the terminology used in the apps.
  • Lack of trust in people’s own ability to use the apps safely, including concerns around inputting personal details.
  • Low digital skills and confidence.

In response, Holbeck Together delivered a series of tailored digital support sessions themed around each app. They invited service users who already used the apps to attend the sessions and share their experiences of the benefits of using the apps, and to encourage peer support. Holbeck Together planned days out to enable people to practically use the apps. With support service users visited Leeds City Centre and Yeadon on the bus, using travel apps to plan their journey and book their tickets.

“The group had so much fun working together to plan the best route on the app.  They thoroughly enjoyed it and said it felt ‘less scary’ because they’d done it all together.  They loved the fish and chip lunch at the destination!  With the app they were able to find the right stop and using the live tracker, only had 5 minutes to wait at the bus stop.”

Sean, Digital Inclusion Officer, Holbeck Together.

The sessions were successful in supporting service users to develop the skills and confidence needed to use the apps to support travel. The project’s success has meant that Holbeck Together is continuing to deliver transport-themed digital support sessions. They have found there is a real demand for this support across their community, and as a result, many of their service users have been supported to grow their skills and confidence, and now enjoy using travel apps to move around the city.

“I would like to say how wonderful this project has been. I have learnt so much and feel so much more confident in using the bus apps. As a widow, aged 75, it has given me a reason to go out and has helped with my grief. I can now plan my routes on the app to meet friends and visit even more places of interest.”

Irene, 75, service user.

Morley Digital

Morley Digital identified concerns around sharing personal information and making in-app payments as an additional barrier to their service users using travel apps. In response, Morley Digital developed guides around how to safely use payment features and input personal details into the apps. These were then shared across all delivery partners.

“We ran themed digital support sessions around using payment options in the apps, exploring PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Airpay which is used on the Amber Taxi app. There was a real worry before these sessions, but we went through each step in detail and the members said they felt so much better and appreciated our help in setting it all up with them.”

Alan, Digital Inclusion Worker, Morley Digital.

Leeds Irish Health and Homes

Leeds Irish Health and Homes identified that many of their service users were without a suitable device to download and use travel apps. In response they used some of their funding to purchase smartphones to gift to service users in need. 4G data was also provided with the smartphones, enabling service users to download travel apps and use digital tools that could help people stay in touch with family, friends, and services. 

After identifying the support needed by their service users, Leeds Irish Health and Homes designed a four-week course themed around using bus apps, with the fourth session ending with a practical exercise of booking a ticket and making a journey. The sessions reduced older people’s fears around making journeys using travel apps and increased their independence in navigating the city.

Older people felt more confident in using the First bus and Arriva apps, including to plan journeys to Harrogate, Scarborough, and Saltaire.


Leeds Older People’s Forum gathered feedback and case studies from each of the delivery partners and produced an evaluation report to share findings. The report showed that more older people have been encouraged to use public transport after receiving support via the project, meaning more people have been able to reconnect with their friends, families, and communities. Across the organisations service users welcomed peer support which empowered older people to share their new skills to then help others. Many have developed their digital skills and increased their confidence to use transport apps and apply for bus passes to travel around Leeds and beyond.

“Not everyone lives next door to relatives and friends so by increasing people’s confidence in using taxi and bus apps we are helping them to increase their social opportunities, to meet at a coffee shop for example, and helping to reduce loneliness.”

Delivery Partner.

Many older people said the support on offer via this project reduced their anxiety around travelling, particularly app features such as the ability to see their taxi approaching, the car registration, and knowing who their driver would be. Many found using live tracker features highly useful, meaning they won’t be waiting a long time for buses in cold weather conditions. Through the project it also became apparent that applications for bus passes in Leeds were relatively low, so organisations have built this support into their delivery and subsequently more older people have applied for their bus passes as well as helping other older people to do the same. 

“It’s made such a difference; I like to see my taxi and where it is on the journey.  I would never have known how to use the app before, but the help I’ve received has been great and I now use it all the time. They showed me how to save my journeys on the app so it’s just a click of a button now to order my taxi, and I feel so much safer.”

Service user, Your Backyard.

Staff and volunteers across the delivery organisations also said they’d developed their own digital skills and now felt more confident in supporting older people to use transport apps and apply for bus passes. They found about apps they hadn’t heard of, such as Moovit, which have proved to be great options for safely navigating the city, planning routes, and gaining more confidence in travelling independently. 

Next steps

Based on the success of the project and the high demand for support amongst older people in using transport apps, the delivery partners continue to provide this support. With the support of 100% Digital Leeds the delivery partners have embedded this into their existing digital support sessions and service offers. The travel app guides and resources produced via this project are all now widely available and the organisations are continuing to explore new apps that may be of use to their service users.  These resources have been shared across the Older People’s Digital Inclusion Network and network partners have begun conversations with West Yorkshire Combined Authority to look at further support around the process of applying for a senior bus pass.