A MASSIVE increase in the cost of travel to college for sixth form students in south Shropshire is to be phased in over three years.

The issue has been highlighted in The Advertiser and now Shropshire Council has stepped from a proposal to introduce the 60% increase in travel passes all in one go.

After reviewing the responses from parents, students and colleges to the recent consultation, Shropshire Council has decided not to implement the proposal in the consultation on post-16 transport.

Instead, to lessen the impact, a phased subsidy reduction will be introduced from September 2014.

The phased reduction of the subsidy for the service will see the ticket price increased to an equivalent of £658 for the next academic year for students not on defined benefits, rather than £875 as outlined in the original proposal.

“The views that we received are extremely important to us, which is why we have changed our plans,” said Karen Bradshaw, Shropshire Council’s director of children’s services.

“By making these changes over three years we hope to lessen the impact on students and parents alike.”

The scheme offers termly transport assistance to college and sixth form for a flat rate contribution, regardless of distance, to entitled Shropshire students.

Post-16 transport is a non-statutory area that is currently subsidised by the council at a cost of £550,000 per year and while the council recognises that this is an important area to continue to support, at the same time it needs to reduce the overall subsidy of the scheme, which is in line with many other councils’ approaches.

Instead the contribution for students on defined benefits will be £22.50 per term and for all other students £219 per term for the academic year 2014/15.

It is proposed this will increase each year until the academic year 2016/17, meaning that in 2015/16 the contribution for students on defined benefits will be £35 per term and for all other students £255 per term, and in 2016/17 contributions will be £47.50 and £292 respectively.

“We have phased the reduction in subsidy to give people the opportunity to budget for future years and so that the increase isn’t too sharp too soon,” Karen Bradshaw added.

“Where students have a more appropriate or more economical means of getting to and from college, we would always advise them that it is in their interests to make their own arrangements outside the terms of the scheme.”