The Government must fund the additional costs of providing school transport during Covid-19 social distancing, the Urban Transport Group has said.
The UTG wants the Government to meet the “full additional costs resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic on the provision of transport to schools and colleges”. The Government should also open a dialogue with transport authorities on the operational challenges of schools restarting, it says.
Despite some children in England returning to school next week, the UTG briefing paper released this week said: “At the time of writing, transport authorities have not been involved to any significant degree on any discussions that may have, or are, taking place between the Department for Education and the DfT on the transport ramifications of the return to schools and colleges.
“It is difficult to predict in advance: which schools and colleges will be opening for whom and when; the extent of the take-up of school places that become available; and to what extent and where schools traffic will shift to active travel and the car, and thus what demand there will be for capacity on dedicated and regular school transport.”
Social distancing will “dramatically increase the costs of the provision of dedicated services (and for the provision of capacity for school journeys on regular services) and there is no clarity about how these costs will be covered,” says the UTG.
“Schoolchildren and students tend to travel at similar times creating peaks that could easily overwhelm the capacity of socially-distanced bus services,” it warns. “With social distancing, many of the secondary school services will have to be operated by double-deck buses but these will not meet the requirement for the use of seatbelts for primary school children.”
The UTG says the bus industry’s approach to social distancing “could mean children are left at bus stops, which would have significant implications for their welfare”.
“Avoiding this scenario implies the re-planning of services and networks to prioritise the availability of capacity for school traffic,” it says.
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