Cost of bus travel could almost double for pupils

CONCERN has been raised after it was announced a bus pass for pupils could be nearly doubled in price.

A survey was sent to parents at Matthew Arnold school in Oxford, explaining that there is to be a consultation for the 35A and 35B services from Kennington to the school.

The services are set to be withdrawn by the Oxford Bus Company (OBC) for public use with the possibility of them becoming a ‘closed door service’, at a substantial cost to parents.

The pass would increase from £381.75 to about £700.

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Laura Smith, a parent at the school, said: “I have one child that already attends Matthew Arnold and one other child who will be moving up in September.

“That would mean I would need to find £1,400 a year for my children just to use the bus, I can’t believe they think that people will be able to afford that amount of money.

“They definitely can’t ride their bikes as we live too far away and there are several hills and the roads are dangerous.

“The main reason we chose Matthew Arnold was because of the foundation pathway they offered us for my child, who suffers from dyslexia and anxiety.

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“He is doing extremely well and progressing there so uprooting him and changing schools would cause lots of stress.

“I understand that several companies are struggling due to recent events but this is a huge increase in money.”

Payments in instalments and reductions for those eligible for free school meals are to being considered in order to help parents.

Phil Southall, managing director of OBC, said that the two services were ‘at risk’ prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

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He added: “We fully appreciate this is a difficult situation for everyone and we’re working with all parties to reach a solution where possible.

“The number of pupils travelling has been declining for a couple of years and the Covid-19 situation has brought additional significant and ongoing challenges to bus services.

“Previously OBC was able to subsidise the cost of Matthew Arnold school buses by using the buses on other services during the rest of the day, but this is no longer possible as a result of planned service reductions in September as a result of Covid-19.

“Along with the county council, we’re in ongoing constructive talks with the school and community and we’re advising on all options.”

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Oxfordshire county councillor, Yvonne Constance, added: “Oxfordshire County Council and OBC recognise that the proposed withdrawal of the 35A and 35B bus services between Kennington and Matthew Arnold school is a significant issue for those students and families affected.

“The Covid-19 situation has brought very significant challenges to bus operation in Oxfordshire, as with all areas of society.”