Local transport authorities (LTAs) in England will receive over £40m from the government to pay for additional dedicated home-to-school transport in the autumn term.
The money will allow “hundreds of thousands” of students to be removed from the public transport network. Funding will be allocated to reflect the number of children and young people in each LTA’s area and how far they travel. The money also covers provision for students in further education.
During week commencing Monday 10 August, LTAs will be provided with detailed guidance on how they should plan home-to-school transport arrangements from September. The government will review further funding arrangements in the future should it become necessary to do so.
Earlier guidance issued by the Department for Education showed that social distancing will not be required on dedicated home-to-school services in England from September. In July, the government told the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) that it estimates 5,000 vehicles will be needed to resource the additional dedicated provision.
CPT has welcomed the £40m awarded to provide additional dedicated home-to-school transport in England. However, Chief Executive Graham Vidler says LTAs must adopt “a pragmatic approach” to engaging with operators.
Spare capacity within the coach sector should be utilised fully, he continues. It is understood that CPT has laboured that point over recent meetings with the Department for Transport.
Mr Vidler adds that LTAs will “also want to ensure that all contracts meet the true costs of running home-to-school services to ensure that services remain sustainable.” Concern was earlier aired about how viable some contracts will be from September with a loss of ‘infill’ work.
Various LTAs have already started to source additional vehicles for dedicated home-to-school services. A wide-ranging exemption to PSVAR for such services was announced by Minister of State for Transport Chris Heaton-Harris on 30 July. It lasts until 31 July 2021.
In a concurrent announcement, DfT has confirmed that the Coronavirus Bus Services Support Grant Restart fund in England will continue to receive up to £27.3m per week on an open-ended basis. It comes with the condition that local bus services operate at pre-oronavirus COVID-19 levels from September.