Campaign launches as Fulwood pupils face Preston Bus price hike

Posted on - 3rd September, 2023 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Fulwood, Politics, Preston Council, Preston News, Schools, Transport
A Preston Bus service in Tithebarne Street Pic: Ian Simpson
A Preston Bus service in Tithebarne Street Pic: Ian Simpson

Families are campaigning after Preston Bus hiked the price of school bus passes.

Pupils at Corpus Christi Catholic High School and Fulwood Academy will now pay £22.50 per week, an increase of £6.50 on the previous £16 fare.

This follows an increase from £11 last year.

A Facebook group called Fight against Preston bus school bus fare increases has been set up.

The protest group, which describes the latest 40 per cent price rise as ‘unfair’ and ‘extortionate’, has launched a petition against Lancashire County Council.

While the County Council provides free transport to and from school based on legal walking distances, and offers help to families who have a low income, the campaign group believes more should be done by the authority.

Campaigner Mark Inglis is a parent of a child at Christ the King Catholic High School in Frenchwood.

Mark said: “This campaign is about giving every child the easiest chance of a quality education. The price of the school bus should not be the factor that jeopardises it. We the parents want a fair price for all of Lancashires children and families.”

Read more: Fresh call for Preston workers to receive the real living wage

However Lancashire County Council says it is not in a position to subsidise private companies such as Preston Bus.

County Councillor Rupert Swarbrick, cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said: “Lancashire County Council provides free transport to and from school for your child if they are aged 5 to 16 and they live outside the legal walking distance between your home and the nearest qualifying school.

“While we are not obliged to, we do allow pupils who are not entitled to free transport to purchase a season ticket to access one of our services, providing there is room.

“In addition to those statutory school services operated under contract to the county council, there are a number of commercial school bus services that are run by private bus companies. These are often where a bus operator feels there is local demand for a service and where the revenue from fares will cover the operational costs.

“We are aware that some of these companies, including Preston Bus, have had to increase their fares as the costs of operating buses have increased significantly over the last two years.

“Unfortunately, passing these additional costs on to their customers by increasing their fares is the only viable option available to them.

“We do sympathise with families who are faced with such increases, especially in the current climate. However, these services are provided on a commercial basis and the county council is not in a position to provide additional funding to subsidise their operation.”

Corpus Christi High School in St Vincents Road Pic: Google

Meanwhile Preston Bus says rising costs and a lack of solutions from talks with local politicians have led to the fare increases.

A spokesperson for Preston Bus said: “We have not come to this decision lightly, having been in discussions with stakeholders since 2022 over the financial viability of our fully commercial home to school bus services.

“It is with regret that we have to increase our fares on these services, however due to rising wages and increases in spare parts costs this has meant these services are heavily loss making. The tickets in question are not only valid on our school services, but on our wider network in the evenings and weekends, unlike similar operations elsewhere in the UK.

“We have discussed the situation we are faced with for some time with the school and Lancashire County Council, to try and find a solution other than a fare increase to reflect the costs of operating the services. We have also had dialogue with Mark Hendrick MP about some of the challenges we face with these wholly commercial services which operate without public subsidy. Unfortunately no alternative funding streams have been identified which has led us to this situation.

“These services will be reviewed in the coming months to ensure they are now viable which should hopefully avoid them being withdrawn altogether. We are committed to providing high quality, reliable school bus services for pupils of these schools. Certain parents may be entitled to free home to school travel for their children and we recommend they check the LCC website more information.”

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