From education to employment

Lecturers” Union NATFHE Speak Out Against Fare Hike for Students

The row over the proposed fare hike for travelling students on the Tyne and Wear has rumbled on, with a decision now imminent from the transport authority.

The Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Authority (PTA) had been advised to scrap the Teen Travel Ticket, used by 10,000 pass holders in further education across the region. The projected savings would amount to £1.8million, with transport operator Nexus claiming that it needs to identify £5.4million in savings to cover the cost of a government scheme to provide free bus travel for pensioners.

This would mean that students currently paying £31.50 for a four-weekly all-zone ticket will in future pay £61.50. And the proposed cuts have been widely condemned from both the students” side, through the University and College Lecturers” Union (NATFHE), and the pensioners” side through the comments of the North East Pensioners Association.

Both Parties Call Foul

Jon Bryan, a NATFHE representative and lecturer at Newcastle College, stated baldly that he was unimpressed with the consideration shown. He said: “Withdrawing the Teen Travel Ticket, currently held by around 10,000 young people, sends the wrong message to people in the North-East.

“Around 5 million journeys a year will be affected by this cut and it could have a devastating impact on the ability of young people to pursue their education,” he continued. “There seems to be no joined up thinking taking place here. The government want young people to continue studying, but funds are not made available to get them to college. So much for the government’s idea of putting education first.”

John Berry, the secretary of the North East Pensioners Association, pointed out that taking funding from other parts of the community was never part of his agenda, and criticised the proposal, saying: “We are totally opposed to any cuts that will affect other people in order to give us free travel. We find it disgraceful that students are going to have to pay £61.50 and that fares for children will also increase when they are high enough as it is.”

FE Students Left Out of the Loop

One of the main concerns for NATFHE is the impact that this will have on the ability of Further Education students to attend classes at college. FE college students often come from the more disadvantaged areas of the community, and there is a distinct fear that this hike in fare prices may be the difference between some of them remaining in education or not.

“FE Colleges traditionally take more students from poorer backgrounds, often travelling long distances,” said Mr. Bryan. “The decision of the PTA to cut funding is bound to have a negative impact ““ and that will not be good for students or colleges. Not a good idea. Doubling fares for students is not the way forward. Transport policy should be inclusive, not exclude those who cannot afford it.”

It appears that the dispute is far from over, with Mr. Berry stating: “We havent finished with this. We will be making in-roads to the MPs and asking where they stand on the issue.”

Jethro Marsh

Will the transport authority back down? Will students face excluding fares? Tell us in the FE Blog

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