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Yellow School Buses by Dr. Steve Wright, Centre for Transport Research, University of Aberdeen - Aberdeen Meeting held on 3 February 2009

Dr. Wright began his presentation by outlining the background to the establishment of the Yellow School Bus Commission. The Commission had been set up to look at the potential benefits of the Yellow School Bus concept in the UK. The research undertaken included a review of operations in both the UK and in the United States with the aim of determining if the US model could be applied to the UK. The Commission published its report in September 2008 and this detailed its findings, based on the review of current operations in both the UK and in New Jersey and Georgia in the US.

A yellow school bus in Glasgow city centre.d

A yellow school bus in Glasgow city centre.

© John G. Fender 2011

Dr. Wright outlined the methodology used in the research and highlighted some key facts that came out of the study. However, it should be remembered that the study made a number of assumptions, for example the distances involved are over 1 mile and less than 5 miles; 30% on non entitled pupils would transfer to yellow school buses whilst 75% of entitled pupils would switch to yellow school buses; each vehicle would cost £42,500 per annum to operate; all vehicles would have 60 seats and that there would be 75% occupancy; 30% of the buses would operate double journeys both in the morning and afternoon; there would be a flat £1 per day fare.

Based on these assumptions and undertaking a cost/benefit analysis, it was concluded that on a nationwide basis it would require some 7,500 vehicles to provide a yellow school bus service for primary school pupils at an annual cost of £326 million per annum. Although fares revenue and subsidies would yield £172 million, there would still be a shortfall of £154.6 million. For secondary school pupils, an additional 13,000 yellow school buses would br required at an annual cost of £549 million.

Again, fares revenue would offset the costs and together with subsidies would still leave a shortfall on secondary school provision of £239 million. Various suggestions have been made to yield the additional revenue required, ranging from additional subsidies, to commercial sponsorship. However, in today's financial climate, it is doubtful as to where this additional revenue would come from and most local authorities are seeking ways to reduce existing costs.

Looking at the benefits, the research concluded that providing a yellow school bus service could reduce the number of car journeys to primary schools by about 20% for primary schools and about the same figure for secondary schools, with a resultant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. There would also be a reduction in traffic levels and congestion, especially in the morning peak period.

In a lively discussion session many questions were put to Dr. Wright who answered them in a comprehensive fashion. There were also many points made on the figures produced and discussion on the pro's and con's of such schemes. At the end of the evening, the Regional Chairman thanked Dr. Wright for his presentation and the debate it had stimulated and presented Dr. Wright with an engraved quaich as a memento of the evening.

Report by John Fender.

 

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