Derbyshire County Council hits families with cash demand for Matlock school buses
Parents at a Matlock school will be left scrabbling for change after Derbyshire County Council reinstated fares on its bus services with no option to pay in advance.
Students using the 440, 453 and 463 services to reach Highfields School have been offered free travel since 2020 due to a change in the law affecting buses which did not comply with wheelchair accessibility regulations.
A council spokesperson said: “The regulations were phased in over the past 20 years, with many councils and bus and coach operators believing that school bus services would be exempt.
“This proved not to be the case, but in November 2019 the Department for Transport issued a two-year exemption for school buses, meaning companies could operate non-compliant vehicles but were restricted to the number of fare-paying passengers they could carry.”
“Our solution to ensure students who didn’t qualify for free school transport could still travel on affected services was to offer them free, temporary bus passes.”
The situation has cost the council some £50,000 in lost revenue, but now Government policy has changed again, removing the limit on fare-paying passengers until at least March 31, 2022.
While parents families may accept the reintroduction of a £1 fare per journey, the absence of any options for a term pass or advanced booking may become an inconvenience, or even in some circumstances a barrier to learning.
One told the Mercury: “I understand the reasons why they want to charge but I don't believe they should be doing it until they have a workable solution in place involving paid-for bus passes.
“Parents have to somehow get ten pound coins every single week – 20 if they have two children – and students have another thing to remember, and potentially lose, every day. We're in an increasingly cashless economy and Highfields is a cashless site.”
The council spokesperson said: “We always made it clear that the free bus passes were only a temporary measure and understand that families who benefited may be upset this has ended.
“Only a few services were affected by the exemptions so the majority of families across the county who don’t qualify for free travel continued to pay a fare as normal to travel on their bus to school.”