South Lanarkshire councilors agree to scrap bus charges for pupils

South Lanarkshire Council will stop charging pupils who access privilege transport to school.

At the education resources committee meeting today (Tuesday) councilors endorsed the decision to cancel the £1 fee to children who use the privilege transport scheme.

The recommendation will now move on to the executive committee for a final decision.

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The paid privilege transport scheme was introduced in 2010 and allowed children who were not entitled to mainstream transport to access a seat on the school bus for £1 if the vehicle had spare capacity.

Spare seats on the buses are normally allocated to pupils who access the scheme by September each year.

However, as new regulations came into force at the end of 2021, it was decided to scrap the charges as it would lead to inconsistencies.

New Public Services Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR) require buses and coaches with capacity of over 22 people to incorporate features to allow disabled people to travel on them comfortably and safely, including wheelchair space and a ramp or a lift.

These regulations have been applied to vehicles over the last 19 years, including coaches manufactured from 2005 onwards.

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It was then proposed as of January 1, 2020 (which was extended to December 2021 due to COVID), that the regulations would also apply to any coaches manufactured before 2005.

This means that if a bus or coach does not incorporate features to allow disabled people to travel comfortably, including wheelchair space and a ramp, then a charge cannot be applied to any spare seats on the vehicle allocated under the paid privilege scheme.

This impacts the scheme as not all school transport contract providers will be able to comply with PSVAR and the council would only be able to charge for privileged places on contracts that use vehicles that comply with the regulations.

This would make the scheme inconsistent and some families would be charged for privilege transport and others would be able to access it for free depending on which vehicle is transporting their child to school.

The date of enforcement of the new regulations will come into effect as of July this year; the council has proposed to cease charges to allow a consistent approach for all families accessing the service regardless of the vehicle being used.

It is also recognized that the change will be consistent with the new free travel scheme for children and young people under 22, which came into effect last month.

The removal of the change may also assist families who are continuing to face financial challenges due to the COVID pandemic.

The proposal has been endorsed by councilors on the Education Resources committee and will now be referred to the Executive Committee for a final decision.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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