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School Bus Fares Set To Be Re-Introduced In North Yorkshire

School Bus Fares Set To Be Re-Introduced In North Yorkshire

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Stuart Minting at 8:43am 19th February 2020.

A local authority which was forced to drop charges for pupils not entitled to free home to school transport following a legal challenge from a disability rights campaigner looks set to re-introduce the fares wherever possible.

North Yorkshire County Council’s leadership will consider launching a public consultation in response to the challenge which centred on the ability of non-entitled and post 16 pupils to pay to travel on vehicles that were used for home to school transport provided by the council, but which were not accessible for people with mobility needs.

In a letter to the council’s executive last year the campaigner said:

“The school bus forms a social function for many pupils. Segregation is bad for communities and individuals. The negative effect is known and acknowledged in South African and American civil rights history.”

The campaigner said he did not want the council to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds of income, but said it was an “unintended consequence” of a “moral and legal failure to promote accessible transport provision”.

To comply with the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR), the council stopped charging pupils not entitled to free transport, such as those aged over 16, but the Government has since provided exemptions for school services that carry fewer than 20 per cent of fare-paying passengers.

A council spokesman said it had concluded there is no obligation for the council to require all vehicles to be used for home to school transport to be accessible, but the Council provides accessible vehicles when they are required.

He said:

“No entitled child is prevented from accessing education as a consequence of an inability to secure suitable transport.”

However, most vehicles used on mainstream home to school transport are not currently accessible.

The spokesman added:

“Whilst it may be desirable to provide only accessible vehicles it isn’t affordable. A recent tender for home to school transport in Craven and Ryedale indicated that the costs of PSVAR compliant coaches would be nearly £12,000 more per vehicle than for a non-compliant coach.

This would scale up to an additional annual cost in excess of £2.7 million for the whole of North Yorkshire if home to school services were provided using only accessible vehicles.”

The authority said it now proposed from September to only secure transport for entitled pupils and where pupils do not have mobility needs that require accessible transport the council may use vehicles that are not accessible.

The council said spare seats on vehicles procured for home to school transport may be offered to non-entitled pupils a charge will be made for the use of those seats where the vehicle used is compliant with the requirements of the regulations.

The proposals state daily fares paid for the use of spare seats will only be taken where vehicles are accessible and comply with the regulations.

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