THE Welsh Government has announced that it will review the current mileage thresholds for free school transport.
Primary and secondary pupils are currently entitled to free transport if they live outside 2 miles and 3 miles of their schools respectively. These distances will now be subject to review after Llanelli MS Lee Waters experienced for himself why they may not always be practical.
In January, Mr Waters walked to school with Maes Y Gwendraeth pupils living in Tumble, whose bus service had stopped ahead of new UK-wide accessibility regulations. Despite an exemption for school buses providing statutory services, no such exemption was granted by the UK Department for Transport for fare-paying services. This has meant many Llanelli pupils living inside two miles (primary) or three miles (secondary) of their local school who usually paid for travel have lost their services and sometimes been left with no alternative.
Reflecting on the experience, Lee said “Walking to school and talking with parents and pupils convinced me of the need to look again at the current distances. It’s clear that they are not always practical or safe for children to walk or cycle to school.”
“Whilst the UK Department for Transport has washed their hands of the situation – something that’s affecting pupils up and down the country – I’ve been trying to find a common sense solution that helps our young people travel safely.”
Llannon County Councillor Dot Jones said “I’m really pleased to see the Welsh Government leading on this, because parents and pupils alike are feeling let down by the current situation. I’m glad there’ll now be a review, but it’s important that this is done with speed.”
On the Welsh Government’s wider agenda for active travel, Mr Waters said “This is a delicate balancing act between encouraging more pupils to walk and cycle, and ensuring they continue to have safe school transport. We’ll do what we can to make sure parents and pupils are not left with no alternative but to drive their children to school. At a time when we have a virus linked to poor air quality and obesity in our midst, I’m determined to see this through for our children.”