Council asks for review after Yarram students were refused bus

THE state Public Transport Minister will be asked to review the process for larger groups from rural schools to access buses.

It follows Yarram Secondary College being refused access to V/Line buses for 60 students to travel to Melbourne.

Wellington Shire Council will write to minister Melissa Horne for the review of the system, and whether groups of more than 30 students and teachers can have an allocated bus so they can travel together.

Council was concerned the current arrangement was discriminatory to rural students, especially those from low socio-economic families in drought-declared areas, and places undue hardship on small rural schools to fund private buses.

According to councillor Garry Stephens, if V/Line could provide a special bus for large school groups it would save remote schools a large amount of money and give rural students the same access to public transport as schools with direct access to train travel.

"This is a very important matter for a school that needs access to V/Line bus services to take large groups," he said.

Gippsland South MLA Danny O'Brien has asked the minister twice about the issue.

In her response to requests for a bus to be allocated to groups, the minister said "your proposal for an extra bus to be provided on a particular service that has an advance group booking would require buses to be on stand-by for these bookings".

Cr Stephens said the minister's response was "incredible".

"If the 3.12pm train on the Traralgon line from Melbourne to Traralgon breaks down at Pakenham, V/Line will suddenly materialise half a dozen buses to transport those passengers," he said.

"The current pre-booking system requires the school to book at least a fortnight in advance if they want to book a large group.

"At the moment the Yarram Secondary College, if they have to have a large group travel to Traralgon to catch a train, needs to spend something like $1000 to hire a bus.

"This is just incredible in my opinion."

Response from a government spokesperson:

"We work hard to accommodate group requests on regional coach services but due to regular passenger numbers on V/Line services, and the operational logistics of carrying large groups, this is not always possible.

"V/Line worked with Yarram Secondary College to get their students to Melbourne, arranging for the group to travel using the Traralgon-Melbourne train service."