Village is split over school bus fares row

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ANGRY parents are demanding action over a bus fares row which is splitting their Doncaster village.

Some parents in Sprotbrough are able to send their pupils to nearby Ridgewood School for free with a bus pass because they live more than three miles from the school.

But others, who claim they are in a less affluent part of the village, have to fork out 40p to get on the bus - and that is set to rise to 50p.

Now fed-up mums and dads whose children have to pay to use the buses are calling for an end to what they see as the unfair split.

Parent Jason Oliver, of Ashburnham Gardens, handed a petition calling for more fairness in the bus fares to the chairman of the South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority, Doncaster Coun Mick Jameson, at the Mansion House.

It was signed by 750 parents from the village.

He said: “If you live more than three miles from the school you get free bus fares. That means Sprotbrough is split into two by the A1(M), with those on one side having to pay, and those on the other side getting free travel.

“With 50p fares, that means it is going to be £190 per child over a year. But people at the top of Sprotbrough don’t pay a penny. We’re not asking for a free bus pass - we’re asking for a flat rate for everyone. We want to see a scheme that is fair for everyone.

“If it is school transport they should not be discriminatory on the basis of where you live.”

Doncaster Council’s director of the children and young people’s service, Chris Pratt, said: “The council operates a clear home to school transport policy that determines which pupils are eligible to receive free transport to and from school.

“The circumstances and practices for this follow statutory criteria that is applied to all pupils across the country, not just Doncaster.”

The council says free school transport eligibility includes an assessment on the nearest direct safe walking route, taking into account the age of the child, footpaths, crossings and lighting. The legislation also determines that for children to be eligible for a free bus pass the safe walking route must be over three miles.

The provision of free school transport is for journey times to and from school only. All children and families are required to pay the standard bus fare cost if travelling on public transport at evenings, weekends and during the school holidays.

Coun Jameson said the rules over the distance from the school were set by the Government. Of the bus fare raise for youngsters, he added the rate had not been increased since October 2003, and the rise would still leave South Yorkshire among the cheapest metropolitan areas in the country. The rise was having to be made because of Government cuts, he added.