Big bus fare increases for some Kenilworth School pupils next year

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Parents of certain Kenilworth School pupils may have to fork out more than twice as much money to pay for their children’s bus fare next year.

The 557 service, run by Stagecoach on behalf on Warwickshire County Council, is also getting rid of single-journey payments, forcing parents to buy term-long bus passes.

Pupils living further than three miles away from the school will have to pay £255 per term, or £765 per academic year, not including means-tested reductions in price.

Under the old fares which allowed payments for single journeys, parents paid a maximum of £296 per year, meaning prices will go up by 158 per cent.

For those living within three miles, the new price will be £127.50 per term or £382.50 a year.

And some pupils might not get a seat on the bus due to the county council’s ‘vacant seat scheme.’, which allocates remaining seats to pupils after those who qualify for free home-to-school transport have already been given seats.

The scheme prioritises pupils which had a vacant seat pass in the previous term on the same service, followed by new pupils based in Warwickshire, with the lowest priority given to non-Warwickshire pupils.

Even if a parent applies successfully for a pass, it may be taken away if a new entitled pupil needs a seat, or if the service is changed or withdrawn.

If this happens, parents will be refunded depending on how many days the pass was used.

One Coventry based-parent, Nichole Wilkinson, whose son currently catches the 557 from Tile Hill, is very concerned about the changes. Her son falls into the lowest-priority bracket for getting a vacant seat.

She suggested the council should use the fare rise to lay an extra bus on instead of stopping certain pupils from travelling.

Nichole added: “Every way you look at it, it’s unfair. If he wants to do any activities after school and doesn’t get the bus back we’re paying for a service he isn’t going to get.”

When asked what she will do if her son does not get a seat next year, Nichole replied: “I really don’t know.

“There are other buses but they’re much further away from the house.

“I think the council wants to have its cake, eat it and come back for seconds.”

The headteacher at Kenilworth School, Hayden Abbott, said the school was ‘very disappointed’ with the planned fare rise.

He added: “We feel that the price increase is unjustified and even more importantly the decision to introduce a bus pass with no flexibility, means that children who stay to participate in after school activities are being unfairly penalised.

“We are also frustrated with the lack of consultation with parents and the school.

“We have been actively involved in trying to have conversations with the county council about this issue, however at the moment have had no resolution to this problem so far.”

School governor and Kenilworth town councillor Richard Hales said he was ‘appalled’ by the new system, and added: “If the school have to get a governor to sort this out with the council something’s not right.”

A spokesman for Warwickshire County Council said a meeting will take place between Kenilworth School and the council this Thursday about the fare rises, and offered no further comment.