Students are having to stand on public buses while school vehicles pass half empty, a would-be MP has claimed.
Julie Pörksen, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Berwick, has claimed there have been incidents where students at college or schools with sixth forms have had to stand on public buses, while school vehicles have passed with spare seats.
This she claims is a result of Northumberland County Council’s requirement that students in post 16 transport have to use a public bus where one exists, with Ms Pörksen branding the authority’s policies a “disaster” and unfair on young people - particularly those in rural areas, having highlighted Wooler as an example.
The council has said it has had no reports of students not being able to sit on buses at Wooler.
The Labour run county council introduced a new post 16 transport policy this academic year in which most students have to pay for their journeys, with some charged £600.
Ms Pörksen had set up a petition opposing the introduction of charges, but this failed to sway authority bosses.
The new policy requires students to use public buses where suitable routes exist, and forbids them from travelling on school buses for under 16s.
This, Ms Pörksen claims, has led to some cases particularly at Wooler where students have had to stand on public buses due to there being insufficient room for they and regular users, while school vehicles for under 16s have passed half empty.
She said: “Labour’s post-16 transport policy has been a disaster on so many fronts for Northumberland’s students.
“Not only do students have to pay for travel which should be free, some are being made to stand on the way to school when the school bus taking students under 16 years of age drive past half empty.
“This is unfair on the students, existing passengers and the bus companies who are trying to run a good service on these routes. “Northumberland’s Labour councillors need to stop treating rural students unfairly, the school bus is not a luxury, it is a tiring journey which makes a very long school day and the very least the council can do to help rural students is let the sixth formers have a seat on the school bus.”
However, a spokesperson from the county council said: “We have spoken to all three bus operators who carry school children into schools from Wooler.
“They have all confirmed that there is sufficient seating space and that they haven’t experienced any issues of overcrowding on any of the public bus services from Wooler.”