Education Authority challenged over route safety in free bus pass dispute

Roy Beggs pictured at Green Link.
Roy Beggs pictured at Green Link.

The Education Authority (EA) says it is content with the current route a number of Belfast High School students are expected to use despite concerns being raised.

East Antrim UUP MLA Roy Beggs has challenged the EA’s decision which disallows free school travel entitlement for a number of pupils from Newtownabbey, who had been expecting to receive a bus pass.

Mr Beggs said: “I have been contacted by a number of constituents in Newtownabbey who having measured the route to Belfast High School, believed that their children would be entitled to receive a school travel pass.

“However, the Education Authority advised me that they have calculated a shorter route through the busy Ulster University campus, via a section of private university-owned road called Green Link.

“This includes a section of narrow road, with a bend with limited sightlines, and without a footpath. As a result, several applications for school bus passes have been turned down as the distance to school for several young people would then be less than the three mile minimum required.”

He added: “The main public pedestrian route is down the Jordanstown Road and along Shore Road where there is a footpath available for pedestrians.

“I have forwarded to the Education Authority photographs highlighting that the proposed alternative, Green Link, does not have a footpath. I believe that the Education Authority are adding additional risks to pupils walking to school by considering this to be an acceptable route. As a result of including this unusual route to school through the University of Ulster grounds, several families will be less than three miles from school and miss out on a school bus pass.”

Responding, an EA spokesperson said: “The eligibility criteria for transport assistance - including in relation to walking distances – is set by legislation.

“This states that transport assistance should not normally be provided for any pupil who lives within the statutory qualifying distance of a school (this is defined as two miles in relation to a pupil attending primary school and three miles for post-primary, measured by the nearest available route).

“The calculation of travelling distances to Belfast High School has been carried out in line with the above and, following inspection by a Transport Health and Safety officer, EA is content that the route is suitable to be walked by a pupil if necessary.

“Therefore there is no requirement to revisit the calculation of travelling distances to Belfast High at this time.”