Parents petition against hike in school bus fares for North Beds families

MBTC Sharnbrook Academy
MBTC Sharnbrook Academy

Angry parents have launched a campaign to fight plans to increase bus fares for sixth form students using school transport. The fare hike from September will see the annual

cost rise from £381.90 to £890 per student, per year.

The decision, part of the 2017/18 budget voted for by Bedford Borough Council’s Executive, is blamed on the need to find a further £2.1million in

austerity savings following central government cuts to local authority funding.

Unlike transport for Under 16s, the borough council has no legal obligation to provide sixth form students with subsidised transport. Subsidies charges were applied some time ago, but that subsidy has now been withdrawn.

Martyn Wady, who is leading the campaign, said: “The additional cost will definitely impact on many families living in villages and likely cause some children to change their education plans.

“While there is means tested support available, most families will fall outside of the criteria and therefore the burden of cost will fall on already stretched

family budgets.

“It’s not just the unfairness of the price rise,” added Mr Wady, of Riseley.

“There is also the additional traffic and cyclists that will likely result from it.

“With the cost so high, many families may choose to drive children in to school, which will exacerbate an already bad situation. Plus, in order to save money, children may be forced

to cycle to school. While this is healthy option, children having to cross the busy A6 in the morning and cycling down dark, narrow country roads is a recipe for disaster.”

Mr Wady believes the decision discriminates against families living in rural Beds and is urging parish councils and parents to protest by writing to Bedford mayor Dave Hodgson and sign a peition.

He added: “It’s unfair that families should be singled out purely because they live in a village.

“I know that some people will think children cycling or walking to school is the way is should be, we don’t live in the 1950 anymore – there are more cars and the roads are far more dangerous than

they were back then.”

A consultation on Post 16 School Transport was held earlier this year where, according to Mr wady, a ‘Hobson’s Choice’ of accepting the new fare or scrapping the subsidy

The decision almost exclusively affects students in the Sharnbrook Academy catchment area which includes many of the borough’s outlying villages.

A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: “This council has to make £24m of savings due to government cuts. Rather than cut the service altogether the council will still secure transport for pupils, but at an increased charge, despite not being funded to do so or legally required to do so. Following consultation, for pupils from low-income families the charge will not increase.”