Calls to look at cheap bus tickets for children in Kent

by Caitlin Webb, local democracy reporter

County councillors are calling for bus companies to offer cheap tickets for school children.

It comes a year after Stagecoach launched half price tickets to youngsters aged five to 16 at all times, including rush hour.

Now councillors want other firms to follow suit to encourage young people to take public transport.

The cost of bus fares for children is once again under the spotlight
The cost of bus fares for children is once again under the spotlight

Cllr Rob Bird said: "I applaud Stagecoach for providing child fares.

"This is something that is so overdue and so appropriate.

"So when is the other big operators going to show the similar attitude?"

Arriva buses, which covers Maidstone, Medway and parts of north Kent, does not offer child single or return fares before 9am.

However the firm offers day saver tickets for £5.30, weekly passes for £23 or a £78 monthly pass.

And from this week youngsters who have a KCC Young Person’s Travel Pass (YPTP) will be able to travel on Arriva buses in the evening, during the holidays and at weekends for free and outside of the previous 6am until 7pm slot.

For children in Thanet, trips to school on the bus can cost less than the Kent County Council subsidised yearly young person's travel pass, which costs £290 for a year.

This is due to discounted fares but also the short journeys to school compared to other areas in the county.

Cllr Dr Lauren Sullivan asked the head of public transport at the Kent County Council's scrutiny meeting today (May 10) whether the council is asking schoolchildren in Thanet to pay too much for buses.

Dr Sullivan said: "There was a low take up of the young person's travel pass in the Thanet area.

"Are we [KCC] asking families to pay this big upfront payment rather than some child fees on a day-to-day basis?

"I know there is a discounted price for families on a low income but £100 is still a lot to pay all at once."

Head of public transport Phil Lightowler told councillors Stagecoach are trailing cheap child fares due to the assurance the council will continue to cover some of the costs.

He said: "By tradition, Stagecoach never had these child fares so they came with a proposal that said they want to have a trail.

Stagecoach is looking at different fare options for children
Stagecoach is looking at different fare options for children

"If it wasn't for the reimbursement from the council, the company would have lost an awful lot of money on the fares and may have not taken the commercial risk.

"But it is fair to say, these fares are costing Stagecoach but they can see the benefits because the more people who get on the bus as children, the more people will as adults.

"For some families the young person pass doesn't work but with the cash fares being low it is means children who want to use the bus only once or twice a week will pay half price tickets still."

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