The Department for Transport has now updated its guidance. DfT first wrote to local authorities at the beginning of July 2020 setting out the role of local authorities in planning for transport when schools and colleges return in September, and schools have also received a £40m funding boost for the school transport restart.
'It is strongly advised that parents, staff, and pupils walk and cycle as an alternative to public transport, to further reduce the demand on public transport and the need for additional capacity,' says the guidance, but it also allows that 'local authorities should accept that those who can drive to school may do so'.
It is strongly advised that parents, staff, and pupils walk and cycle as an alternative to public transport, to further reduce the demand on public transport and the need for additional capacity
This comes as a new report, School street closures: motor traffic displacement, suggest that street closures 'do not cause road safety issues of any significance'. The report also suggests that school street closures are supported by the majority of parents and residents living on the closed and neighbouring streets and that their support increases after any trial period.
It adds: 'Local authorities must give active consideration to the impacts of increased car use on local congestion, and ensure that mitigations to minimise these impacts are implemented through their network management duty. Notwithstanding the above, government expects local authorities to continue to discharge their duties in respect of sustainable travel and transport as placed by Section 508A of the Education Act 1996.'
The new guidance comes in two parts:
Capacity on public transport remains limited given the requirements for social distancing; this will be particularly challenging for children and young people who travel to school or college by bus. Local authorities therefore need to put in place local demand management solutions for public services, and supplement the public bus network, and existing home to school transport, with additional capacity, to ensure that children can travel to school safely, and disruption for all passengers on the public network is minimised.
The Department for Transport has developed a Travel Demand Management (TDM) policy toolkit, which was sent to local authorities on 31 July 2020. Local authorities using or adopting TDM will be able to:
understand the nature of likely demands on local transport provision
identify the necessary changes to how that provision is deployed
develop necessary travel advice and communications for parents and students
ensure appropriate monitoring and evaluation.
Additional TDM support, in the form of consultancy support and funding, has been made available to those local authorities in England, outside London, on completion of the TDM self-assessment provided in early July 2020.
Schools and colleges should encourage parents, staff and pupils to walk or cycle to school where it is safe and appropriate to do so.
At a national level, at least 50% of journeys to school of 2 miles or less, and which are currently undertaken by public bus, need to switch to cycling and walking in order to make capacity available for those with longer journeys. This could include:
building on existing schemes (such as the Walk to School programme and Bikeability training)
encouraging schools and colleges to communicate directly with the pupils whose journeys are most appropriate to switch to active travel to encourage them to do so
implementing ‘safe streets’ policies outside schools
Schools are also advised to engage extensively with local businesses and employers to reduce other demand for public transport during peak school travel hours. The TDM policy toolkit and support provided by the Department for Transport helps local authorities to gather the relevant information and develop plans with local businesses and employers.
Local authorities should work with schools and colleges to consider whether changing or staggering school start and finish times would reduce pressure on transport services. This has the potential, in some areas, to:
spread demand for school and college travel over a longer period
enable any additional capacity to be used more than once
increase significantly the ability of public transport to support school and college reopening
Staggered start and finish times should not reduce the amount of overall teaching time.
Contracting additional coaches or other appropriate vehicles (where they are available at a local level and necessary) to provide dedicated school transport services. If there is still a need for additional transport capacity after all of the above measures have been considered, then local authorities should procure suitable vehicles.
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