School bus passes double in price

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PARENTS across Rugby are facing a huge hike in the cost of sending their children to school by bus.

The price of some passes has doubled in the space of two years as Warwickshire County Council has withdrawn its subsidy for the service.

Among those affected is Gilliam Dawson, of Campion Way, Rugby. Her daughter travels three miles a day to Rugby High - and she’s furious that an annual pass that cost £330 in 2009 is now £660.

Gillian said: “These charges seem completely ridiculous compared with the actual operator cost of the travel.

“Last year it cost £540, which seemed possibly fair in light of the increases in fuel cost - until I discovered that the bus operator was able to provide me with a bus pass for £305 for the same journey.”

By law the authority still has to pay for children to be sent to their nearest school, but parents who prefer their children to go elsewhere – such as faith school Harris or grammar schools Lawrence Sheriff or Rugby High - will be affected by the price rises, with many parents struggling to send children to their preferred school.

The council has also imposed a policy which means that from September bus passes will have to be bought from the authority, not a private provider, whose passes can be over £200 cheaper.

A council spokesman insisted it was impossible to continue subsidising journeys.

He said: “We used to provide free transport for qualified pupils on our vacant seats scheme but as part of our savings this year we’ve stopped subsidising the scheme, which is why bus passes have been costed the way they have. Because we don’t operate on the same scale as private bus companies, we cannot offer passes as cheaply as they do.”

Cllr Heather Timms, portfolio holder for children, young people and families said: “The changes we are making are necessary for several reasons. We have to reduce spending on the current home-to-school transport budget whilst ensuring that the council gets value for money and most importantly that students are transported safely.

“The extension of the Vacant Seat Policy which has existed for many years, to cover most of our school transport services from September 2011, will assist us to achieve these aims.”

For details on how to apply for a bus pass under the Vacant Seats Policy, call 01926 742059 or e-mail educationtransport@warwickshire.gov.uk.