Plans to make students in Northumberland over the age of 16 pay for their travel to school has led to claims that some will be "stranded", unable to make the journey.
If there is a public bus service which can get them to school they'll be expected to use it. But some parents say the timetables don't fit the academic day and their children will always be late.
If there is no public transport they can pay £600 a year to use the school bus but passes might not be ready until four weeks after term starts.
Keith Akehurst reports:
Earlier this summer, dozens of parents protested outside County Hall in Morpeth over plans to charge over-16s for school transport in Northumberland. (Read More: Protest over scrapping of free student transport)
Under the plans, pupils were placed into one of two categories by the council:
1) If there is public bus services which can get the student to school they should use that, not school buses.
2) If there is no public transport they can use school buses, but must pay £600 per year.
Now, parents have received a letter from Northumberland County Council explaining that there is a delay in processing passes for those entitled to use school buses and many will have to wait until the end of September before they receive them. Therefore parents are being advised to make alternative transport arrangements for the first month of the school year.
Northumberland County Council have assured parents that they are doing all they can to ensure that no eligible post 16 student who has applied for transport in good time is left without travel arrangements at the start of term:
For many years the council has operated a concessionary scheme for students of any age who are not entitled to home to school travel. They can request spare seats on school buses at a charge. This scheme is completely separate to the post 16 transport arrangements.
Every year priority is given to providing places on school buses for children who are eligible and therefore spare seats under the concessionary scheme cannot be confirmed until late September. Where possible we will confirm at an earlier date. Parents who purchase a seat under the concessionary scheme do so in the full understanding that the availability of that seat cannot be guaranteed. We always advise these parents to have contingency plans in place until they receive confirmation.
Under the new post 16 scheme for those families who do not qualify for any financial assistance and there is no suitable public transport, students will have to pay £600 for a place on a school bus. The Council will now provide more time for parents to pay the initial instalment of £200 and return their completed direct debit mandate to secure their child’s place on a school bus.
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The news that average rail fares could increase by around 3.5% next year sparked anger but also understanding among passengers in the region. Unions claim costs are rising too quickly for people, while the government says extra money is used to improve services.
Transport Minister Claire Perry says that, while the expected 3.5% increase could yet change, any extra money raised from fares goes back into continually improving the service:
Mickey Thompson, from the RMT Union, claims that a rise in rail fares would be unjust to passengers:
Rail travel is being pushed "out the reach of some ordinary people" by fare increases, the head of a public transport advocacy group said.
Stephen Joseph, executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport, told Good Morning Britain that Government-dictated ticket price hikes mean rail fares are rising four times faster than wages.
Commuters will find out how much rail fares are likely to rise by next year when the Retail Price Index (RPI) for last month is released today.
The annual increase is capped at July's RPI plus 1%, with an extra 2% added to some tickets.
The RMT union, which campaigns for the railways to return to public ownership, has said that next year's fare rise is a "kick in the teeth" for rail passengers.
With the “flex” rule passengers are facing fare increases of up to 5.5% at a time when wages are stagnating. People will simply be priced off the railways while the greedy train operating companies are laughing all the way to the bank. This is a kick in the teeth for the millions of British people who use our trains ... With Northern Rail already axing off-peak tickets, with others set to follow, we are once again ratcheting up the highest rail fares in Europe to travel on some of the most clapped-out and overcrowded services ...
"We're a victim of our success" Michael Roberts, Director General of the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators and Network Rail, said.
Mr Roberts told Good Morning Britain that the UK's trains are so busy because they are affordable, refuting claims that fare hikes are pricing people out of rail travel.