School bus fares to DOUBLE in Hartlepool

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SCHOOL bus fares are set to more than double in the next three years after a review by scheme operators.

From September 2017 the cost of concessionary bus travel will go up from 79p a day now to £1.97.

The increase will be introduced in stages from next year as Hartlepool Borough Council looks to recoup the full average cost of a seat.

The authority says if changes are not made it will put more pressure on budgets and mean some bus routes would have to be cut.

The fares are made available by the council to pupils who do not qualify for free travel.

Currently, 23 students travel to school on a concessionary bus pass generating £3,450 a year.

But council officers say changes are needed to reflect the true cost of travel after the council scrapped free bus travel for faith school students from next year.

Alastair Smith, the council’s director of Neighbourhood Services said in a report: “As Passenger Transport Services provide more home to school transport routes, it is important that the cost of the provision is adequately covered, this will become imperative from September 2015 as students accessing denominational schools will no longer be entitled to transport on the grounds of religion and belief.

“Failure to recover the cost of a seat will place a pressure on budgets and will result in some bus routes having to be removed.”

The current cost of a seat is 79p per day or £150 for the academic year.

But the authority says that is significantly lower than what councils charge in other parts of the region and has not been reviewed for a number of years.

The next cheapest is almost double that at £1.50 per day charged by councils in Durham and Darlington.

It will rise to £1.02 next September, equal to £65 a term and £195 a year.

The average cost of the council’s home to school bus service is £23,859 a year.

The authority’s Neighbourhood Services Committee agreed to increase the charges in stages to bring them in line with the current market.

From September 2016, the fares will rise to £1.50 a day, or £95 a term and £285 for the school year.

The final increase in September 2017 will make the cost of a seat £1.97 a day, £125 a term and £375 a year.

Future reports on the uptake of the service will go back to the committee.