Scottish pupils living over a maximum walking distance threshold are entitled to free or supported travel from their local education authority. In 2012/13 this is estimated to apply to 120,000 pupils, at a cost of £126 million per annum. During home to school journeys pupils are under the charge of the authority. This places a significant onus on Central Government, from a policy perspective, and Local Government, from a delivery perspective, to ensure pupils’ safety and welfare.
This study established a baseline picture of the home to school transport industry in Scotland, and, using this is a pivot for forecasts, developed a modelling tool to estimate the demand and costs associated with future provision. In particular, this enabled the impact of a number of potential policy interventions to be assessed, including stipulations on seatbelts, CCTV, vehicle emissions, Wi-Fi, provision of warning signs and hazard lights, driver training and qualifications, and monitors on board services. To support this functionality, the model is also sensitive to key background trends, including demographics, home to school mode shares, and bus industry costs.
It is clear from the data collection, consultation exercise, and the developed forecasting model, that future industry costs could vary markedly depending how any potential changes in policy are implemented. If there is only a short timeframe from the legislation to the date of implementation then contracts may have to be broken and it is likely that a greater proportion of the cost would be passed through to authorities. Similarly, where levels of competition for contracts are less, we also expect a more significant increase in costs, and there is a risk that some stipulations could drive operators out of the market. Finally, the coverage of the change will be an important determinant in future costs. Stipulating the change for selected schools, types of service and/or regions, reduces the cost to Government.