FREE bus passes could end next year for children whose route to school is deemed suitable to walk by Cornwall Council — however, those in local villages are fighting back against the proposals saying it “puts the children’s lives at risk”.
The local authority is reviewing 16 of its funded travel-to-education routes, including those linking Tregadillett, South Petherwin and Prince Phillip Estate to Launceston College.
All three routes have previously had Pedestrian Route Assessments (PRA) carried out and have been assessed as ‘suitable to walk’, but free transport is currently still provided.
The change would be phased in from September 2024.
Cornwall Council says that it generally provides free school transport only to those pupils who live further than two miles from their nearest school (children up to Year 3) and further than three miles if they’re in Year 4 or above.
Exceptions to this policy are made for children with disabilities, or children who live within the statutory distance, but whose route has been assessed as unsuitable for pedestrians.
The council says that the changes will offer more children and young people the opportunity to walk or cycle to school, benefitting health and the environment, and will save the local authority up to £50,000 to 60,000 per year.
It has stressed that children may still need to be accompanied on routes deemed suitable to walk and that it’s the responsibility of parents and carers to ensure their child arrives safely at school. The council adds that “it is ultimately the parents/carers who decide how the journey to and from school should be undertaken, including whether walking or cycling would be appropriate.”
However, these proposals have left residents of South Petherwin and Daws House, two of the areas up for review, incensed.
Suzanne Tincombe and Mark Preedy told the Post: “This is a cost saving measure that potential puts the children’s lives at risk.
“The route is suggested as a shortcut but after checking OS route maps the distance covers well over the 1.5 miles reasonable walking distance in the councils own policy.
“The council suggest they could ride a bike, this is not a safe bike route either. The children would have to negotiate crossing the link road to get to a pavement to then walk to college, there is no pedestrian crossing and this is not a safe. The children would be very vulnerable walking on these lanes, there is no guarantee they would all walk together and could be approached by strangers and no one would witness it?
“On reading the new proposal I am also in a position where potentially I could have one child whose bus pass is honoured but a sibling who is not eligible to apply for a new pass as of 2024 and has to walk, this cannot be right.
“I struggle to see how this route can suddenly be deemed safe when it has not been a safe route for years with the children being entitled to have bus passes previously on these grounds. What has changed apart from more bigger and faster cars on the roads and larger farm machinery? These lanes are used as a short cut by lots of vehicles and very busy.
“How is it environmentally friendly to have lots of parents or carers driving separately to college to drop off and pick up the children. This surely goes against the councils own environment strategy to reduce traffic on our roads and pollution, it’s senseless. The busy children use is a public bus which will co time to run on that route if the children go on it or not so what is the difference with providing them with safe transport to school!
“My feeling is that the council know we will never let the children walk this unsafe route and push us into paying for the bus as parents obviously we are going to do this to ensure the safety of our children but why should we backed into doing this when the route is clearly unsafe and meets the councils policy as such.”
Fellow resident Peter Bailey added: “The route, supposedly assessed by the Council, from South Petherwin to Launceston College, is mostly on unclassified lanes from the village to Landlake Cross and from there to the college passing Scarne Industrial Estate and Launceston Medical Centre.
“The lanes are typical of the Cornish countryside, narrow with frequent blind bends, steep gradients and sometimes near vertical, heavily vegetated banks on both sides.
“Traffic on these roads is light but frequent and consists of private cars, delivery vans, trucks and lorries servicing the many communities and farms in the area and, significantly, tractors and towed agricultural implements. The road is less than 3m in places and the tractors are 2.5m wide. There is no room for a pedestrian to safely step off the road to allow the huge vehicles to pass and on meeting one the only recourse is to retrace one’s steps to find a refuge.
“The council’s proposal stands on the route being assessed as safe when it is very obviously not so. The assessment procedure should be repeated, preferably accompanied by a local resident with experience of this route and it’s use before the council makes any further decisions.”
Sarah Bayly who lives at Daws House suggested council operatives should walk these proposed routes themselves so they understand why these proposals are unsuitable.
“I am appalled to think that the council expect my 13 year old daughter to walk through unlit muddy fields and along roads with no pavements for miles to get to and from school in all weathers, at all times of the year.
“As much as the idea seems feasible from their warm office chairs when the sun is shining outside, in the cold light of day our children from Daws House will be put at extreme risk expected to walk or pushbike on busy roads, muddy unlit fields, a road with a 60 mile an hour speed limit with no pavement or street lights, an industrial estate, crossing Pennygillam roundabout at rush hour to then walk up the link road to the college.
“This won’t be much fun either when the weather is inclement and they and their school books get absolutely soaked through before their school day even starts. In addition they will be walking home in the dark in midwinter wearing their navy blue school uniform which puts them at even more risk on the roads.
“There are no pavement’s up from the bottom of Daws House to the Tregaller Lane junction. There is no way I will allow my daughter to walk home in the dark, dim winter mornings and evenings on that road, despite the traffic calming measures in Daws House (that have thrown up there own problems) motorists still belt along our road and it dangerous enough now just coming out of our drive with the short walk to the bus stop as it is.”
Cornwall councillor for Altarnun and Stokeclimsland Adrian Parsons has also lent his voice to the parents’ plea, adding: “It is extremely disappointing to see that the school transport from South Petherwin to Launceston College is on a long list identified within Cornwall Council’s review of council funded travel to education routes. The children living in these areas are provided with free transport, at a cost to the taxpayer they say of £50,000 to £60,000 a year. The council claim that in 2018 a pedestrian route assessment was carried out and identified that the road out of South Petherwin past the Frog and Bucket pub to Landlake Cross, proceeding along Landlake Lane into Launceston, is a safe passage for College age children to walk mornings and evenings. These backroads are especially narrow with few passing places, with hedges that are wooded, overgrown and shady. When entering Launceston the route continues past the entrance to Scarne Industrial estate where there is no footway, bringing you out onto the link road by DS Smith. As we know with the expansion of this estate the number of large vehicle movements has increased enormously since the assessment took place in 2018, without mentioning the issues of meeting large and speeding vehicles whilst walking these narrow backroads on dark, wet, winter mornings and evenings. At the moment this is at consultation stage with plans to bring forward later next year. I would therefore strongly encourage all those affected to make their feelings known! The current administration at Cornwall Council keep talking about making the Duchy a great place for our children to live and grow up in, so it’s about time they made good of their priorities and started delivering, rather than making further cuts to the services which impact those very people!”
The council says it is keen to understand the impact the removal of free transport could have on families, schools and traffic.
A consultation has been launched and will run until October 1: Parents and carers are being urged to have their say on the Let’s Talk Cornwall website where a full list of the affected routes can also be found.