The youth parliament met in the House of Commons last week and the cost of transport was one of just six issues debated.
Liam Cartwright from Newcastle upon Tyne – where students pay £7 a day for a rail ticket – led the debate, calling for a standardised fare system for bus and rail across the country. He said: “We would see the age at which you are obliged to purchase an adult ticket raised to the age of 18. After all, in the eyes of the law you are an adult at the age of 18. This is an injustice. It is not right that transport companies capitalise on our need to use their services to attend compulsory education.
Caitlin Cavanagh talked about the “Myticket” campaign led by the Liverpool Youth Parliament which lifted the child fare from 15 to 18 on buses in the city. Users are charged just £2 for a day ticket and can travel across six local authorities.
Chelsea White, MYP for Sedgemoor and Mendip in Somerset told the house that her bus pass to get to college costs £650 a year before subsidy. “This is the most expensive bus pass in the country. This kind of financial pressure on families just to send their kids to an educational institution that is compulsory is absolutely disgusting. How is it that we are categorised in transport as adults and made to pay ridiculous fares when in every other aspect of our lives we are treated as children? We need a national student fee introduced in order to apply
equality in transport.”
Another speaker argued in favour of the environmental benefits of reducing public transport costs saying that 25% of carbon emissions come from transport – one bus takes 50 cars off the road.
Alaa Fawaz, 15, from Slough said: “Allowing transport to be cheaper and accessible for all will reduce the number of cars on the road and of course stop the taxi service of mum and dad. Recent legislation expects people to be in education until they are 18 – why are we charging them adult fares when they are only 16 and making it unaffordable for them to attend colleges internships, apprenticeships and volunteering opportunities?”
Lucia Harrington, from South Cumbria is paying £1,000 a year to attend sixth form this year. She said some families struggle. “A friend of mine has to work long hours after sixth form just so she can afford to get there and this is wrong. If the government wants us to remain in education till we are 18 they should provide the means for us to get there.”
The Youth Parliament’s 276 elected representatives (aged 11-18) were deciding which issue to make its priority campaigns for this year. The issues were shortlisted by popular vote though the Make Your Mark ballot – the biggest youth consultation of its kind in UK history. Of nearly one million young people (978,216) who voted, 120,000 chose transport as the priority issue, second only to “A Curriculum to Prepare us for Life” (142,471).
In the end the Youth Parliament selected to campaign for votes for 16-year-olds and a “curriculum to prepare us for life”.
It wasn’t a rejection of the transport issue, argued Darragh O’Reilly from Northern Ireland, but a means by which to achieve progress.
In an emotive speech that had MYPs on their feet afterwards, he said: “Just imagine if the government decided to abolish the transport pass for pensioners and charge the sky high transport prices that you do for us. The government would be out in a day because old people vote and vote in droves. If we had the vote and voted in droves we would no longer be a small part of the Big Society. Our issues would go from the bottom to the top.”
David Lidington MP. Leader of the House of Commons, said: “The UK Youth Parliament is an opportunity for Westminster to hear young people raising the issues they care about most. Both MPs in Parliament and ministers in Whitehall will be listening to what MYPs have to say.”
Emily Stott co-founder of Childfare, said: “I hope MPs were listening to the debate. It is clear that this is a serious issue for thousands and thousands of families. It’s wrong that young people should be paying £600 for a bus pass to get to school or over £1,000 for a train season ticket.”