More than £40 million is being handed to local transport authorities next term to ease pressure on public transport as children return to school in September.
The money will pay for the hiring of dedicated coaches to get students to school and college, and it will help operators create extra capacity, says the Department for Education (DfE). It says this extra provision will allow hundreds of thousands more students to use alternatives to general public transport, while social distancing measures remain in place.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson said he was asking every staff member and student to plan now how they will get to school or college and asked them to walk or cycle if possible.
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He said: “For those that have no other option than public transport, this investment for local authorities will mean more students will be able to travel on dedicated home-to-school and college transport, creating even more capacity where it is needed most.
“While our public transport system has almost returned to full service, I know thousands of people will choose to get active and find alternative modes of transport, because with distancing measures still in place it is important that we all play our part to ensure everyone is able to get to school safely, and on time.”
The DfE said today that local transport authorities would between them be allocated “more than £40 million funding for the autumn term” and that each would receive funding to reflect the number of children and young people in the local area and how far they have to travel.
This includes students travelling to education or training, as well as anyone supervising or escorting students to education provision.
Students returning to further education in September will also benefit from this investment, and local authorities should work with providers and set out their travel arrangements for 16- to 19-year-olds, taking into account that students in further education often rely more on public transport and travel further to get there, says the DfE.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “Today’s funding will allow local authorities to procure dedicated extra capacity in our transport system to help students get back to their colleges and schools in time for the education restart in September.
“But we need everyone to do their bit and help even further by cycling or walking where they can, whether they’re a student going back to school or a parent commuting into work.
The government has already announced a £2 billion package to create a “new era for cycling and walking”, and the DfE said today that this would be supported by a new campaign due to be launched shortly to reduce demand on public transport at peak times and minimise overcrowding.