NEWPORT parents have been left outraged at council plans to drastically raise the cost of school transport.
Parents of sixth form students including those at Caerleon Comprehensive will soon be out of pocket as Newport council plans to increase the annual price of the school bus from around £40 a year to £347 a year.
This comes as Newport council’s cabinet member for education and young people cllr Bob Poole, approved the implementation of a fair charging policy for post-16 students in respect of home to school transport in June 2013.
Under the changes post-16 students who qualify for home to school transport assistance are eligible to receive a discretionary travel grant of £150 per academic year towards the actual cost of their travel to and from school.
Students will now have to pay £497 for an annual season ticket, offset by the travel grant to a price of £347.
But such a price hike has left parents like Jayne Jones, whose daughter attends the sixth form at Caerleon Comprehensive angry and concerned about how they are going to afford it.
“We are being asked to pay for a term that they are not even attending,” she said of students who receive time for study leave whereby they will not be using the transport.
“It used to be a fee of £40 to £45 but we have seen that go up by £300.
“I have just lost my job and it is not means tested.”
Students who are unable to access their catchment or nearest available school via Newport Transport services, have their travel provided on a contracted service and are eligible for the £150 travel grant contribution, and must pay a “top-up” fee to the calculated cost of a seat. These costs have not been revised for a number of years and as result pay a “top-up” fee of £45 per academic year.
This means there is a large disparity between the transport costs paid by post-16 students, dependent solely on where they live and where they attend school.
In a statement from Newport Council it said: “The Passenger Transport Team has calculated that the actual cost of a seat on a contracted bus is between £730 and £750 per year. Post-16 students accessing travel to school in this way are therefore benefitting significantly from hugely reduced transport costs. The council bears the cost of this subsidy, currently estimated to be in the region of £91,000 per year.
“Raising the cost to these students in line with the additional amount payable by students accessing Newport Transport services would reduce the financial subsidy to approximately £42,000 and result in them paying £347. This change will come into effect at the start of the autumn term 2014.
“Charging the full cost of the contract vehicle seat to the student would negate the subsidy. However, this would result in these students paying a cost in the region of £600 per year for their travel to school - a significant increase when compared with the current charge of £45.
“The council recognises that such a significant cost could cause financial hardship for some families and has agreed a phased implementation programme that will remove the subsidy in full by September 2017."