YOUNG Islanders will be able to buy a £20 bus pass next year entitling them to unlimited annual travel around the Island.
During the Government Plan debate yesterday, States Members voted for Deputy Rob Ward’s proposed trial scheme for under-18s by 23 to 20.
The trial would ‘significantly’ reduce living costs for families supporting children in further education, according to Deputy Ward, who estimated that the change saved families £260 a year on school bus travel alone.
He proposed a single annual charge of £20 to cover the administrative costs of the scheme.
‘Of course we have been here before,’ Deputy Ward told fellow politicians in the Chamber, but he added that ‘you either fight for what you believe in, or meander along and take the easy option’. The Reform Jersey politician brought a similar scheme for under-21s to the Assembly last year, which was defeated.
Other jurisdictions have recently announced free travel for young people, with the Scottish government stating that an under-22s scheme expected to be introduced early next year could benefit almost one million young Scots.
‘We should not be charging our children to travel on the bus to school,’ said Deputy Ward, labelling the arguments against doing so ‘tired, confused and inconsistent’.
Infrastructure Minister Kevin Lewis said: ‘Public funds invested in the bus service should wherever possible benefit the greatest number of service users.’
He listed increased frequencies, additional routes, replacement of the fleet and green technology ‘to name but a few’.
Meanwhile, Children’s and Education Minister Scott Wickenden queried where the money was going to come from but ultimately voted in favour.
In his amendment report, Deputy Ward said it was ‘difficult to quantify costs given the paucity of data’.
Deputy Ward also said the Government Plan levied ‘significant funds’ to Island operator LibertyBus, totalling £3.75 million between 2021 and 2024, and this was an ‘opportunity to include this project in this funding’. Additional costs could be taken from future climate change funds, he added.
St John Constable Andy Jehan said that ‘all too often we say no; not what if,’ and pointed out that it was only a trial.