In the latest copy of AroundKent, the news paper of Kent County Council, which I have never actually bothered to read before, I noticed that the esteemed Paul Carter, Leader of KCC, was inviting comments from the public in small letters at the bottom of his leader article. He mentioned many subjects which are close to everyone in Kent's heart such as traffic congestion and schools, hospitals and police. Not being one to shy away from doing my civic duty I put pen to paper (actually finger to keyboard) and penned him my thoughts particularly relating to schools and the Kent Freedom Pass, which if you don't know is a scheme which has been running for a few years allowing all school children from 11-16 years to travel anywhere in the county "free" I say free but actually there's a £50 annual "administration fee" But still better than paying the £700 a year it would cost for your son or daughter to travel to Tunbridge Wells and back every day with those lovely people at the (non)Arriva bus company. My main issue is that whilst passes for 11-16 year olds is all well and good, what about all the sixth formers and college students who are, let's face it, more likely to come in by car, thus clogging up the already overloaded roads, and who would benefit even more from having the freedom pass. If TonbridgeBlog hasn't bored you to tears on this subject and you can be bothered to read on here is the letter wot I wrote to Mr. Carter at KCC and I'm pleased to say that today I received his reply, which follows. Make of it what you will, but I thought it was quite positive and particularly noticed the litttle PS:
"Hello, in the latest issue of "AroundKent" you mention "...planned infrastructure, schools, railway capacity etc..." In my view it seems that one of the most obvious causes of the traffic capacity particularly on the stretch of road between South Tonbridge and the St. Johns area of Tunbridge Wells, although I've a pretty good feeling it applies elasewhere in Kent, is the admissions policies of the Grammar Schools in the area. Judd School in Tonbridge, as an example, is a highly selective school which only admits students who achieve virtually full marks in the 11+ Being as this is the only boys grammar in Tonbridge this policy natually means that most of the boys from Tonbridge who pass their 11+ are forced to go to school in, Tunbridge Wells, usually at one of the two boys grammars on the St. Johns Rd. Someone must have studied what effect this has on local traffic before 9am in particular but, I'm betting, without that the traffic would be much aleviated.
It's almost certainly true that KCC's Freedom Pass, which my son currently benefits from, has helped the traffic situation to some extent, as many of the students who would otherwise have got lifts from parents are now, more sensibly, taking the bus. However, what of six formers and college students, like the vast numbers who pour into Tonbridge on a daily basis? They have no freedom passes available to them and are also, in many cases able to drive, thus helping to overload already full roads and when they arrive they often have no choice but to park in residential parking areas within a walk of their schools/colleges. Surely, if the intention is to get cars off the road, the Kent Freedom pass would be even more applicable to these older young people than the younger ones. I realise that your finances are being heavily scrutinized at present, but surely this would be money well spent. Please let me know your thoughts on this,
Dear Mr Richardson,
Thank you for your constructive e-mail dated 6 October.
I take your point about school travel movements and traffic congestion. This was one of the key drivers in the introduction of the Kent Freedom Pass which is having a positive impact on school traffic flows as you mention.
Kent County Council did seek some Government help with cost of implementing the Freedom scheme. This would have helped us to extend the scheme for 16-18 year olds. Sadly, we have had to bear the cost of the scheme without such assistance.
We are currently reviewing the Freedom scheme and are looking very closely at the possibility of including 16-18 year olds. The ultimate decision will depend upon the cost.
Thank you again for your comments.
Leader of Kent County Council
p.s. I agree, super-selection does not help congestion!