THE OPPORTUNITY to pay for seats on school buses is coming to an end following a change in legislation across Wales.
For many years, pupils who do not qualify for free home to school transport have been able to pay for a seat on commercially operated buses where bus operators have chosen to provide such services.
But new legislation brought in by Department for Transport (DfT), which will be enforced from January 1, 2020, means bus operators will no longer be able to offer seats to fare-paying passengers unless they provide full disabled access.
Most school buses that operate in Carmarthenshire do not provide disabled access as pupils with disabilities have use of specially-equipped vehicles.
Currently, pupils in Wales qualify for free home to school transport if they live two miles or further from a primary school, or three miles or further from a secondary, with a few exceptions based on certain factors.
Pupils who do not qualify for free transport have been offered services provided commercially by bus companies, in some cases as dedicated buses, and in other cases operators contracted by the council have been permitted to use larger vehicles and sell the extra seats on their routes, should they wish.
The changes affect all local authorities in Wales, and means around 500 children in Carmarthenshire will have to make alternative arrangements.
Many commercial operators have already started to withdraw paid-for services, and parents are being advised to check and make alternative arrangements, including looking at public transport options to cover part or all of the journey.
Cllr Hazel Evans, Executive Board Member for Environment, said: “Whilst the legislation is being enforced from January 1, we’re aware that many commercial operators in Carmarthenshire are already making changes in advance and so we advise families to check arrangements as soon as possible.”
Further information about school transport can be found on the council’s website www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales
Public transport services can be checked with Traveline Cymru on 0800 464 0000 (freephone) or online at www.traveline.cymru