Wokingham Borough Council has announced changes to its home to school transport from September 2021, in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint and ensure it is providing the best service to all residents.
Typically, over 900 children living in the borough are transported to school on a daily basis on council commissioned transport. The council has reviewed and re-tendered all home to school transport contracts to ensure they continue to meet needs and represent best value.
The council is also working to improve student journeys to school with its rights of way improvement plan, which will see footways across the borough improved and its greenways plan, which is connecting the borough through a network of greenways that will offer alternative, more sustainable ways of getting around the borough. The council is also currently working on a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan which will identify the work required to produce a safe walking and cycling network across the borough, ensuring local routes connect so that more people can walk and cycle to school.
What changes will be made?
For secondary school pupils, there will be a change to most school coach routes to better accommodate those students eligible for travel assistance and to ensure the most efficient use of vehicles. An overall reduction in the number of coaches will be seen. Students from different schools will now share transport, meaning that transport is still available and accessible but the number of vehicles on the road during peak traffic times will be reduced, improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions.
For primary school pupils, many of the routes will change from September, as the routes have been optimised for efficiency and to make the best use of available resources. For some pupils, this may mean they are travelling with different children, a different operator or different staff. As with secondary schools, this will reduce the number of vehicles on the road and the added benefits this brings.
A pilot will also be taking place whereby a small number of primary school children will be picked up by a minibus from local collection points, such as bus stops, rather than taxis offering a door-to-door service.
For children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, the council have reviewed all transport needs and provisions. There are currently over 250 children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities with agreed transport for September. Many children and young people will have new staff taking them to and from settings or they may be travelling with different children or young people or in different vehicles. All transport has been arranged taking into account individual needs.
Cllr Graham Howe, executive member for children’s services, said: “We are committed to providing an accessible and appropriate home to school transport service that is sustainable.
“The review helped us evaluate the service we provide and make some adjustments to reduce the environmental impact of the service. We are reducing the number of vehicles we are using, which is a key part of our journey to being carbon net zero by 2030, as well as being cost effective for our residents. The council continually looks at the services it provides to ensure they provide the best value for money, as we owe that to our residents.
“Through My Journey Wokingham, we already work with schools to encourage parents and children to walk, scoot and cycle to school, which is also part of our work to reduce our carbon footprint.”
The council are contacting all parents of pupils who receive home to school transport with further information on how the changes will impact their child/children.
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