With the threat of COVID still ever-present, it has brought up an important question regarding student safety as they make their way back to school this September. With most students unable to drive, it means that they look towards other forms of transportation outside of personal vehicles, and with this, there has always been a large demographic of young students using the bus network to get to school.
However, while some schools have seen the huge benefits of having a dedicated school bus service similar to the American model, the vast majority do not. Only 4% of all school travel is by a designated school bus compared to 13% which is done on public buses.
It is believed that as many as 750,000 children use public buses to get to school but with social distancing laws and social bubbles in place, this can no longer be the case on regular public transport as though children are at extremely low risk of becoming ill from Covid-19, they are still able to transmit the virus to those who are higher risk.
Switching to a dedicated school bus service would dramatically reduce this danger and also alleviate pressure on parents who would be forced to carry out the school run. The percentage of children already getting lifts to and from school is at 37% and will likely rise causing increased congestion, pollution, and safety issues around schools.
43% of students have the ability to walk to school however with the days getting darker and 57% of students unable to walk to school due to distance there needs to be a push towards providing dedicated school transport to improve safety and efficiency for children going back to school.
The good news is that funding and planning are being put in place. In London, More than 220 routes have been designated as “school services”, which, can fill to capacity, unlike regular public transport. Other authorities, such as Transport for Greater Manchester have secured over £2M to put into additional transport services including buses that will be used exclusively by school and college students. These will have their route numbers marked with an ‘S’ to show they are school services.
These signs are a step in the right direction however COVID presents a unique opportunity to be able to change the way that children get to and from school more permanently by providing dedicated school bus services across the UK.
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(Data Source: National Travel Survey)