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A report is being presented to next Tuesday’s Executive Board recommending a massive increase in fares for ‘School Specials’, a fare paying bus service operating on some routes for those pupils who do not qualify for school transport.

The current daily fare for a return journey to schools is set at £1.10, however officers are recommending an increase to £1.70, an increase of nearly 55%. This would result in parents having to find an additional £3 per week for each child they have using the specials, on top of the existing £5.50 they are currently paying.

The report does not indicate how many pupils would be affected, but there are 15 services feeding most of the Secondary Schools and run in areas where there is significant demand, not met by the commercial network. The Council currently subsidises the service and fares are therefore less than those charged on commercial bus services.

Officers believe the increase is necessary to meet the reduction in the Supported Public Transport Budget in 2013/14 to £674k from its current level of £800k, which is a combination of Welsh Government funding and the Environment Department’s cash limited budget.

They point out that commercial bus fares have increased by 10% over the last year; however, historical records indicate that the daily fare for School Specials was £1.00 in 1998. The revised school transport policy, which came into effect this September, is likely to result in increased demand for School Specials for non-qualifying students, generating more demand on this budget.

The Council has had discussions with some Bus Operators who have indicated that if the fares on the School Specials were increased to a daily rate that is in line with a commercial bus fare, then they may consider registering the service commercially and no longer need support from the Authority. One Operator has indicated that they would also consider exploring incentives for the purchasing of a weekly ticket. This would have to be purchased at the start of the week, and there would be no reimbursements for any changes throughout the week.

A report outlining this and other issues relating to Public Transport was presented to the Homes, Environment and Communities Scrutiny Committee in September. They did not support the full increase, but recommended a more modest increase from £1.10 to £1.30. The Executive Board will decide on Tuesday.

Is this an appropriate way to save money? What do you think? Should the fares increase? If so, how much? – £1.70 or £1.30.

The full report can be viewed here.