Father's fury at scrapping of free bus journeys for pupils

A FATHER of two has condemned the council's decision to cut the number of free buses for pupils after he discovered he could end up paying almost £60 per month to send his children to school.

Parents of children who will no longer qualify for free bus travel after the summer received letters from the council telling them of the new rules earlier this week.

It follows a decision by city councillors at last month's budget meeting to scrap free travel for children living more than two miles but less than three miles from their catchment high school.

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Damian Rowell, whose 14-year-old son Max attends Holy Rood High, is outraged that he will now have to either spend 28 a month on a bus pass for his son, allow him to walk or cycle the busy route or drive him to school every day.

With his other son Tod, ten, due to start at the same school next year, he fears the ruling will leave a huge dent in the family budget.

Mr Rowell, a Royal Mail manager from Brunstane, said: "The council is wasting money on trams, on flights for employees and on taxis for councillors yet they can't give our children a bus pass when they live more than two miles away from their school.

"Do I have to do another school run and add to the congestion around the school, or do I make Max walk or endanger him by telling him to go on a bike?

"To buy two bus passes is 56 extra a month out of the family budget. It's a lot of money. There has been no consultation and they haven't asked if they can do anything to help families."

Alison Johnstone, Green councillor for Meadows and Morningside, also expressed fears after it emerged that just one in six pupils gets cycle training in primaries.

She said: "In the absence of a genuine proven commitment to cycle training for P6 and P7 pupils, I would have concerns that this could well lead to more children being driven to high school and we need to really be doing more to encourage a culture of cycling and safer waking routes to school.

"The sad fact is that there are far too many primary schools which don't have walking buses and very few children are being given the chance to learn to cycle before they go up to high school."

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Children in East Lothian living more than two miles from their nearest secondary, but less than three miles, will also no longer be entitled to free transport, which brings both authorities in line with legal requirements. However, both Midlothian and West Lothian councils offer free buses, or passes, to children living more than two miles from the local secondary school.

A spokesman for the city council said: "We have a statutory requirement to provide transport for pupils living further than three miles away. Unfortunately, in these difficult financial times, that is all that we can afford to offer."