Published: 12:21, 23 May 2018
| Updated: 11:38, 24 May 2018
The cost of Kent County Council’s travel pass for school children is to rise by £10.
The price of the Young Person’s Travel Card - available to 11-to-16-year-olds in the county’s schools - will increase for the fourth successive year.
Transport chiefs say the rise is needed to offset an increase in bus fare prices rises.
The cost is set to increase to £290 or £100 for those eligible for free school meals.
The scheme, introduced by Kent County Council in 2014, covers use of bus services from Monday to Friday between 6am and 7pm.
The politician in charge of transport said the pass still represented value for money.
Cllr Mike Whiting said: “Nobody wants to see prices increase but unfortunately, as fares rise, we are in the unenviable position of having to put the cost of the pass up.
“I believe this is still the most generous scheme outside of London. KCC does not have to provide the pass but we do so because we want to promote sustainable school travel on the public bus network.”
He added that those who chose not to secure a pass could pay up to £740 for paying fares straight to the operator.
“Our scheme, which is subsidised by the taxpayer at about £300-£330 per pass, costs around £1.50 a day," he said.
"With the extended hours of use, I believe this offers extremely good value for money.”
KCC subsidises the scheme to the tune of £8.5 million a year and will not pay anything for the additional benefits offered by bus operators.
The county council will continue to allow parents to halve the cost by purchasing half-yearly passes.
The hike was condemned by opposition parties. Liberal Democrat councillor Antony Hook said it risked more parents opting to drive their children to school.
"Kent roads are clogged up and school traffic contributes to this. We know that a lower price pass encourages parents who might otherwise drive to send their child on the bus. This higher price will lead to more cars on our roads at rush hour. It also makes a mockery of choice of school. Charges likes this make choice dependent on whether your family can afford it or not. It undermines that the idea of Kent grammar schools being based on ability. It is no longer true - travel costs and private tutoring are making it a question of family background.."
Labour county councillor Karen Constantine said the increase would not help families on a tight budget.
"Finding £290 in one go for some families is a real struggle. For those families with more than one pass to fund it can be a problematic leaving families to make tough economic choices. It should also be remembered that parents do not want their children to know that their parents are "struggling."
It was announced last month that children using Arriva buses would also be able to use the pass outside of these hours and at the weekends and during the holidays from May 6.
Stagecoach bus users can also make use of the extended hours.
Kent Youth County Council Transport Committee chairs Kyle Siwek and Freddy Waters said the scheme still offered good value for money.
Mr Siwek said: “The Young Persons Travel Pass allows students to travel to school for £1.50 a day, which provides better value than buying tickets on the bus. We are grateful to KCC for continuing to support the pass."
Applications for the pass to start from September can be made from June 4.
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