During a recent debate in the House of Lords, Lady Beith raised the issue of the high cost of fares on public transport for young people, especially those in rural areas.
Lady Beith asked the Minister: “Is the Minister aware that help with transport costs for young people is particularly important in rural areas, where the population is very sparsely spread? Is he aware that, if you are a young person in my home town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, it is 50 miles and two hours by bus to your nearest FE (further education) college, and 67 miles by train – which is even more expensive – to Newcastle? Is he also aware that, because of this, take-up of FE for training and skills continues to be below the national average in our area, and has been for a long time?”
In his reply, the Minister made reference to the 16-25 Railcard, which gives young people and full-time students discount on rail fares.
However, after the debate, Lady Beith said: “There are various restrictions on railcard use which means that young people travelling from Berwick can still end up paying substantial fares to attend Newcastle College.
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“We need a standard scheme across the country which recognises that young people need to travel to work or education during peak times and gives them concessionary travel to support their aspirations and the development of their careers.”
In 2014, Northumberland County Council’s Labour administration axed free transport for post-16 students amid budget cuts and a desire to support the county’s own schools and FE colleges. The Lib Dems were vocal opponents of this move.