18 December 2019

Aberdeenshire Council withdraws school transport charges

Aberdeenshire Council has withdrawn charges for privilege travel places on all dedicated school transport vehicles with effect from January 1, 2020.

Currently, the council charges for privilege school transport - the term used for a spare seat on a bus that a pupil can ask to use if they are not entitled to free school transport.

The current charges are £114.60 per annum for primary pupils and £179.40 for secondary pupils with discounts provided for those on low income and families.

Under the proposals discussed by the council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee on Thursday, December 5 all ‘dedicated’ school transport - buses which cannot be used by members of the public – will become free with the majority of privilege transport pupils automatically becoming entitled to free transport on safety grounds. 

Charges will remain, however, for the use of buses operated as services for the general public. The loss in revenue to the authority is estimated at £165,000 per annum.

The decision comes as a result of increased implementation of Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) which apply to all vehicles with more than 22 seats.

From the start of next year, a coach used on a scheduled service, with a few exceptions, must provide wheelchair access and meet general accessibility requirements in such areas as step and seat dimensions, markings and handrails.

Councillors were advised that up until very recently, Aberdeenshire and other local authorities believed dedicated school transport services to be exempt from PSVAR despite privilege charges being applied for pupils not entitled to free school transport.

This GB-wide misunderstanding has been recognised by the Department for Transport (DfT) which has recently introduced a process for seeking vehicle exemptions but this does not provide a solution to meet all circumstances in Aberdeenshire.

Aberdeenshire Council will continue to provide free home-to-school transport to all primary pupils who live more than two miles from and attend their zoned school and to all secondary pupils who live more than three miles. Pupils will be required to continue using their existing bus passes.

The council will also continue to operate free home-to-school transport to pupils with additional support needs and pupils on educational and/or medical grounds.