Local Assembly Members Propose US-Style School Bus Scheme

But Mayor slams "impractical pilot" aimed at replacing free bus travel for under 18’s

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Local Conservative Members of the London Assembly are opposing the £55million spent by Mayor Ken Livingstone on free bus travel for the under 18’s in full time education proposing a US-style school bus system in its place. The move came when the London Assembly gathered this week to discuss the Mayor's draft budget for 2007/08.

Angie Bray, Assembly Member and Conservative candidate for the newly formed Central Ealing and Acton constituency, said “"We are proposing to roll out a dedicated school bus system across London, after piloting it in several boroughs, as the best way of ensuring safe, free travel for pupils getting to and from school. This would provide free travel for educational purposes from home right to the school gate and in the process would help to bear down on truancy problems.”

She continued “We believe it right to provide this free facility but also that it is far better delivered through a dedicated school bus service as this would also help to free up the limited space on buses at peak hours for other members of the travelling public who are facing higher and higher fares. We also believe there is a separate but linked problem on some bus routes where anti-social behaviour has increased from gangs of school children riding the buses well outside school hours. This has been drawn to our attention not only by the police but by other passengers and in some cases by transport workers who have experienced it during their working hours."

But the Mayor slammed the plans calling them an “impractical pilot” believing it “impossible to implement in London” and “would deprive families of the advantages of the fares concession at weekends and bank holidays.”

He added “We now have the reality of the alternative to my administration – with Angie Bray AM voting to abolish a benefit that saves families with school-age children up to £350 a year for each child. The proposal to abolish it would cost families hundreds of pounds a year and hit the poorest families hardest.”

Conservative Assembly Member Tony Arbour disagreed stating “Livingstone's policy is flawed because, since the introduction of the pass there has been a sharp rise in anti-social behaviour on the bus network, other bus users are finding it difficult to get seats on the bus and children who may previously have walked or cycled to school are now travelling very short distances by bus, which is unhealthy.”

He continued “Providing a blanket pass is an extravagant waste of taxpayers money.
Dedicated school buses will target the need. If they're good enough for Bart and Lisa Simpson then they're good enough for us."

February 7, 2007