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School Transport

Volume 453: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what measures are in place to promote safer travel for pupils attending rural schools in Northern Ireland. (103291)

The Chief Executive of Roads Service (Dr. Malcolm McKibbin) has written to the hon. Gentleman in response to this question.

Letter from Dr. Malcolm McKibbin to Gregory Campbell, dated 28 November 2006:

You recently asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland a Parliamentary Question regarding what measures are in place to promote safer travel for pupils attending rural schools in Northern Ireland.

As this issue falls within my responsibility as Chief Executive of Roads Service. I have been asked to reply.

You may be aware that Roads Service, in liaison with the Department of Education, is promoting a Safer Routes to Schools initiative, to encourage walking, cycling, greater use of public transport, and car sharing for the journey to and from school. One aspect of the project entails the introduction of traffic management measures outside schools, to create a safer local environment for children, in both urban and rural areas, to get to school. The programme is being taken forward in liaison with other statutory agencies, including the Department of the Environment’s Road Safety Branch and the Health Promotion Agency.

I should also explain that The Traffic Signs (Northern Ireland) Regulations 1997, permit road signs to be used in the vicinity of schools to warn drivers of the potential of encountering children in the road ahead, going to and from school. These signs are commonplace on our rural road network, particularly on busy roads and where speeds are high. The signs are often supplemented by flashing amber lights.

In addition, Roads Service plan to introduce a programme of school safety zones to manage speeds specifically at rural schools where the current speed limit is 60mph. These zones will include prominent signs and road markings to draw motorists’ attention to the possible presence of children at schools. Work has started on this project so that an additional 10 schools will have measures installed by the end of this current financial year and it is planned to complete work at a further 20 schools in the 2007-08 financial year. As part of this initiative, Roads Service is actively investigating the potential of introducing variable speed limits at rural schools.

You may also be interested to know that Sustrans, the sustainable travel charity, has been offered a funding package from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Structural Fund valued at £900,000 for the purpose of protecting and enhancing the physical environment of rural areas. Following preliminary discussions with Roads Service, it has been proposed that this funding should be directed at 18 rural schools to address Safer Routes to Schools and Speed Management issues, with financial input from other Agencies. Work on implementing this project is ongoing.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much each education and library board in the Province spent on home-to-school transport in each of the last 10 years. (103442)

The Education and Library Boards have indicated that they incurred the following expenditure from 1996-97 (excluding FE colleges):

BELB

NEELB

SEELB

SELB

WELB

TOTAL

1996-97

2,634,902

9,573,072

9,707,674

10,935,054

8,075,316

40,926,018

1997-98

3,440,081

10,107,590

10,099,923

11,493,357

9,775,748

44,916,699

1998-99

3,450,599

10,580,044

10,336,052

12,473,025

9,342,257

46,181,977

1999-2000

1

45,635,000

2000-01

3,176,375

11,614,839

10,112,226

12,944,502

9,871,818

47,719,760

2001-02

4,088,222

12,252,325

10,952,195

13,479,490

10,863,615

51,635,847

2000-03

4,017,000

14,152,000

11,877,000

14,841,000

12,316,614

57,203,614

2000-04

4,606,000

15,255,000

12,873,308

15,216,000

11,652,219

59,602,527

2004-05

4,425,000

16,806,000

13,285,000

16,367,000

13,166,564

64,049,564

2005-06

4,735,475

16,507,000

13,244,799

16,334,000

13,870,963

64,692,237

1 Detailed breakdown not available Note: It should be noted that the figures prior to 2001-02 are on a cash basis and thereafter on an accruals accounting system.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he has taken to assist in meeting the Department's target of reducing spending on home-to-school transport in the incoming year. (103443)

The Department of Education has been tasked with achieving efficiency savings of £0.9 million in 2005-06 and £1.6 million in 2006-07 in respect of the home to school transport budget. Education and Library Boards in fact achieved savings of £1.7 million in 2005-06. Also a recent mid-year review has confirmed that they are on track to achieve the savings required in 2006-07.

In facilitating these efficiency savings the Department provided £1.4 million additional capital funding in 2005-06 to enable boards to purchase additional vehicles for use on routes where it was identified that it would be more efficient to operate board vehicles rather than use alternative modes of transport.