‘Privilege seats’ on school buses could be reduced

A potential 350 seats on school buses are at risk of being lost on school buses as the Isle of Wight Council cut back services to save money, leaving some parents witn no alternatives to get their children to school.

Laid out in budget proposals in February earlier this year, the council announced ‘privilege seats’ would be reduced in a bid to save £321,000 from a new contract.

Fewer vehicles would be provided which could potentially see routes merged, minimising extra seats and ‘privilege seats’ available for non-eligible children.

Currently, the home-to-school transport contract is held by Southern Vectis, who run 32 routes across the Island, picking up and dropping off pupils, but it is due to expire at the end of the summer term.

The Isle of Wight Council has been asking potential suppliers to apply for the contract and will go through a procurement exercise to determine the specifics of the new services going forward.

A home-to-school service has to be provided for those who are eligible, just under 900 pupils on the Island, which the council said it will plan to continue but recently surplus seats have been losing the authority money and will therefore be ‘significantly’ reduced.

The council sell ‘privilege seats’ to those not eligible for free travel but would still like a place on the bus for a fee of £390 a year but it says it costs them in excess of £1,000 to provide that seat.

Approximately 350 privilege seats across 18 of the routes are sold to families to get their children to school.

With the ‘significant reduction’ of the seats, those 350 pupils could be at risk of not getting a remaining space on the cut-back services as seats are sold on a first come, first serve basis and no specific figures have been released about the remaining number of ‘privilege seats’.

An Isle of Wight Council spokesperson said: “As part of the process we will seek to carefully match eligible passengers to vehicle sizes.

“Due to the tendering process for the new service there may be a variation in the capacity for privilege seats, and so precise figures cannot currently be given.”