Free bus to Ashington college

Post 16 transport charge protestors gather outside the Duchess's High School in Alnwick.'Picture Jane Coltman

Post 16 transport charge protestors gather outside the Duchess's High School in Alnwick.'Picture Jane Coltman

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Northumberland College is introducing a free bus service between Berwick and its Ashington campus from September.

The move aims to ensure students can continue to access a wide range of post-16 educational opportunities.

It follows Northumberland County Council’s decision to end free school transport for post-16 students.

Council officers are working with schools to target their bursary funds to students in financial hardship who don’t qualify for financial support from the local authority.

Where public transport is not available, particularly in rural areas, the authority will continue to provide school transport through existing contracts. The council will have to charge students £600 a year for places on these services.

In some locations schools are working with the council to purchase existing spaces on these services for their students. Parents and students have been advised to talk to their school about their proposed approach.

Arriva has agreed to introduce a new range of student travel tickets with flexible payment options and the facility to travel at any time of the day during the academic year.

The travel passes will offer students travel within a particular zone or between zones. There are a number of zones and each zone will represent a particular geographical area.

The costs will range from £430 a year for a one zone pass; £530 a year for a two zone pass and £660 for a three zones or more pass, which will cover all of Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside.

The council has worked closely with Arriva to ensure that for the vast majority of students the purchase of a one zone pass will be sufficient to enable them to travel to and from their local high school.

The purchase of two or three zone tickets will be required if longer distance travel is undertaken..

The council is in discussion with other bus companies to ensure they also offer students good value travel tickets to and from their local school or college.

Councillor Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment said: “While we believe these changes in policy are necessary, we understand the concerns of families in the county.

“We are working with education and transport providers to make sure student can continue to access post-16 educational opportunities.”

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