2 June 2011: Today a delegation of young bus users delivered a protest video to the Department of Education, calling for more to be done to support public transport options for young people. Their message is clear: young people want buses to be a positive transport option now and into the future.
As year 11s sit their GCSEs, Campaign for Better Transport has brought together a coalition to speak up for young bus users, including the National Children’s Bureau, the British Youth Council, the Association of Colleges, the University and Colleges Union, the NUS and the UK Youth Parliament. Together we are calling on the government to open its eyes to the combined impacts of the decisions being made on education and transport funding, because cuts to young people’s bus provision could seriously obstruct access to training and education.
The vast majority of sixth form students catch a bus to college, but funding streams to buses face deep cuts, bus networks are retracting and fares are rising fast above inflation. Some school and college buses have already been removed, and there is nothing to say that timetables will not change mid-school year. As local authorities are squeezed so are non-statutory services, including help for post-16 transport. Some authorities have considered proposals to scrap post-16 travel support all together, and annual fees of £600 per student look set to become the norm in some areas. Colleges and students still do not know what the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) replacement scheme will look like, or if it will include support specifically for transport. We put these points to the Department for Education in our response to their recent EMA replacement consultation.
Young people from low income families living in rural areas will be hardest hit as quieter bus services that currently rely on public subsidy are often the first to go. Similarly evening and weekend services are vulnerable, meaning that part time jobs to help students get by are more and more difficult to get to.
We hope that this project gives young people a voice, not only to spell out the negative impacts of cuts, but also to say loud and clear that young people want to see bus services getting better not worse. Better, busier buses would need less public subsidy; but we won’t get more people out of their cars and onto the bus if services are cut and fares go up. It’s about having the long view – something that comes naturally to young people, but is all too often missing in council meetings and in the halls of Westminster.