A St. Helier Deputy is pushing for free buses for school children to cut cars on the roads at peak times and help low-income families.
Deputy Rob Ward's plans - which he says would cost up £300,000 - are part of bigger proposals to make all bus services free for all islanders.
He is proposing a scaled approach to the change, starting with school children, and then all under-18s and people in full-time education. He then wishes to see the Minister for Infrastructure prepare a plan for universal free bus service by the end of 2020.
The Reform Deputy published his proposals today, which will be voted on by States Members next month, saying that it aimed to give “a clear message that we will enable and actively encourage the use of public transport above the car by removing the charge for the journey.”
He asked for fellow politicians to support his proposition, saying it was the opportunity “to create a shift in public transport policy.”
Pictured: Deputy Rob Ward's proposition will be debated next month.
In the report accompanying his proposition, Deputy Ward says that providing free school bus services - and, in the long-run, free bus services for all - would have a number of benefits, with “the most obvious” one being lower peak-time congestion.
“Each bus can take up to 75 cars off of the road,” the Deputy noted. He argued if public transport was free, more people would use it, while some islanders might even choose simply to not own cars.
With the States Assembly having recently voted to declare a 'climate change emergency' in Jersey, following his proposition, Deputy Ward emphasised the environmental benefits such a move would bring.
“The result of free public transport would be dramatic in cutting vehicle emissions and combating climate change as committed to by the States of Jersey. This would support the ambitious target of Carbon Neutrality by 2030,” he wrote.
Pictured: Free bus school services would help family on the lowest incomes.
Free school bus services would also help improve traffic-flow for other islanders and reduce the risk of accidents, while building up self-reliance and resilience among young people who would have to learn to organise their time and take responsibility, the Deputy argued.
Similarly, he believes that the move would create more jobs for public transport workers, while “forcing” the Government to improve “bad public transport networks.”
Free bus services would also remove a financial barrier for those on the lowest incomes, the Deputy said. With current fares for school services ranging from £8 to £11 per week per child, Deputy Ward said that families with more than one child face “significant” costs of £290 and £385 per year for a full 38-week term.
By removing fares, the Deputy says “the financial wellbeing of families” will be directly impacted, especially for low-income families. “This targeting of income inequality is a key driver in the Common Strategic Policy. This addresses income by removing a specific expenditure that is disproportionately used by lower-income families,” he wrote.
The St. Helier Deputy argued that the cost of free bus transport for students would be around £300,000 – “a similar figure to the amount returned to the States Assembly from LibertyBus. This money can be used to fund this part of the proposition,” he said.
He however added that “a wider understanding of cost” had to be considered, especially regarding health, infrastructure needs, growing damage to urban environment and the impact on climate.
Deputy Ward said: “It is hoped that bus usage will increase with a free system. This will require greater investment, but in the long term. This will be balanced by longer-term savings from health, infrastructure and the culture change we require, as we and the world move away from a carbon-based economy.”
The proposition will be debated in the Assembly on 18 June.
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