A $300 ticket to ride
COFFS Coast parents may soon have to foot the bill for their child catching the bus to school.
According to BusNSW, the State Government is proposing to change the School Student Transport Scheme (SSTS) and levy a financial contribution from parents for free travel passes on school buses.
They say the fee, rumoured to be at least $300 for each student, is apparently going to be collected from parents by schools on a yearly basis. Local bus operators Ryans Bus Service are calling on parents to voice their opposition to the Premier’s office – before the mini budget is announced on Tuesday.
Operations manager, Nigel Tooth, said there would be huge ramifications for the local industry if the SSTS was abolished.
"Basically, free travel could be going, which will have a huge impact on a lot of things."
"For one, if parents don’t want to pay, then that means more traffic, especially in peak times. That’s more pollution, more congestion.
"And if they’re expecting the school to collect money, that’s more work for administration – not to mention the problem drivers will face , not knowing who has paid and who hasn’t.
"If parents refuse to pay, that means we’ll need to cut services – and that’s not just the school runs – which means we’d have to cut some of our employees."
BusNSW executive director, Darryl Mellish, said they had asked the Premier’s office for a more detailed explanation on what was being proposed, but were still waiting on a response.
"There are three ideas being floated. One is that the eligibility circle will be widened, which means kids who could catch the bus for free now won’t be eligible after," he said.
"The second is that the free travel will only apply for travel to the nearest school. The third is that they change the SSTS so parents pay all or some of the cost.
"If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on the fact that they’ll be asking parents to pay. And they’ll probably ask schools to collect the money," he said.
"BusNSW is concerned that in addition to the impact on families many bus operators could be forced out of business and country services will need to be slashed unless any change is made in consultation with the bus industry, schools and parents," he said.
"I cannot rule out any form of action from the private bus industry should the Government introduce measures that will threaten the future of these essential community services," Mr Mellish said.