26 January 2024
Councillor Joanna Wright, the leader of the Green Group, has issued a compelling statement at the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) meeting, addressing the concerning issue of unfair train fares for 18-year-olds in education. Cllr Wright emphasised the importance of ensuring fair access to transportation for all residents, particularly young adults pursuing education in the region.
The West of England Authority has long asserted its commitment to making the region a better place to work and live through increased mobility and accessibility. However, Cllr Wright has highlighted a significant oversight in the existing transportation system that disproportionately affects a key demographic – 18-year-olds in full-time education.
Currently, students over the age of 18 traveling to school or educational establishments by train are required to pay full adult fares, even during peak times. The limited availability of discounted fares through Student Railcards and the complex authorisation process for the Scholars Scheme have placed an undue burden on students and their families.
Cllr Wright drew attention to the struggles faced by parents, such as Frances, who have encountered delays and unsatisfactory responses from Great Western Railway when seeking support for reduced fare options. Questions were raised about why Great Western Railway failed to prioritise the concerns of its customers and why there has been consistent delay in responding to such inquiries.
Addressing West of England Metro Mayor Dan Norris directly, Cllr Wright urged him to take decisive action as the leader responsible for transportation, jobs, and skills in the region. She stated: “Dan Norris, I urge you to ensure that the West of England Authority provides comprehensive support to all educational establishments and schools. This support should empower them with the complete details of the Scholar Scheme, ensuring that no young adult, just embarking on their journey beyond school, is burdened with the responsibility of paying full train fares. These young people are often in the throes of exams, a time charged with high emotions and expectations and caught up in the expensive travel costs when they do not have full-time jobs.”
The Green Group leader also highlighted the intersectionality of the issue, linking it to the broader goals of the West of England Authority in tackling climate change and facilitating affordable housing and job opportunities. She emphasised that supporting young people in accessing affordable train travel aligns with the Authority's core objectives.
Cllr Wright concluded by urging Metro Mayor Dan Norris to take immediate action, calling for a proper plan to ensure collaboration between Great Western Railway, local educational establishments, and schools to streamline access to the Scholars Scheme.