Huge hike in Lancaster school bus fares

The 5b bus in Caton
The 5b bus in Caton

Parents across the Lancaster district will be counting the cost of school bus travel this Christmas after Stagecoach hiked some of its prices by a third.

The Mega Rider Xtra, which many parents buy monthy to save on daily school travel, is set to rise from £56.99 per month to £82.99 from January 2.

Martyn Dews, who pays for his daughter to travel from Caton to Ripley St Thomas School in Lancaster - a distance of six miles - said the rise is unaffordable, and it’s actually cheaper to drive his daughter to school.

Caton falls outside the Bay Megarider boundary, where under 19s can get an all day pass for £2.

He said: “I currently pay £63 per month to get my eldest daughter to Ripley; that’s on top of the £440 that I pay for the “subsidised” bus pass for my youngest.

The price for the Mega Rider Xtra is increasing to £83 per month! A 32 per cent increase!

“Bear in mind that the 80 service to Caton has been reduced significantly with no Sunday service and no evenings. So a 32 per cent increase in fare for a 20 per cent reduction in service availability.

“I’m now looking at other options as this is unafforadable. It’s cheaper to drive them to school which goes against what I believe. More cars, more pollution, more congestion. False economy. Other parents are also doing the same.”

A spokesman for Stagecoach confirmed that prices would rise by January 2.

The Xtra ticket is a recurring payment taken each month and was introduced in 2013. It offers a saving over purchasing individual 28 day tickets.

The 28 day tickets themselves offer a discount over purchasing weekly tickets, which offer a discount over purchasing day tickets.

The spokesman said: “Unfortunately we are having to increase the price of all our megarider Xtra products from January. These tickets currently offer a very large discount over weekly and four weekly tickets and this is not sustainable in the long term.

“We have though ensured that Megarider Xtra will still offer a discount over buying individual monthly tickets though not as much as previously.”

In November 2015, Lancashire County Council announced it was cutting all subsidies to bus services, saving a total of £7.5m.

The cuts, which came into effect in April 2016, saw huge reductions in bus services across the district, which were particularly felt in rural areas.

Many evening and Sunday bus services now no longer exist. Total group revenue for Stagecoach, which also operates in North America and Europe, in the year to April rose from £3.2bn to £3.87bn.

The boost came from a 90% share in the new joint venture running Virgin Trains East Coast.