BRIDPORT parents are up in arms after a bus company put its school bus fares up by 50 per cent.

They are banding together to try and get First Bus to change its mind.

They say it is unfair for the price to leap from £100 for three months to £50 a month because they have no other way – short of driving themselves – to get their children to Woodroffe School in Lyme Regis. Parent Melanie Friedman said: “Now they are only offering weekly or monthly bus passes and, at £50 a month, that’s a considerable difference, especially if you have more than one child.”

Suzanna Blow said she hoped First would think again because the increase was going to be crippling. She said: “We were already concerned about the bus fare anyway but the fact that it has gone up by 50 per cent is an horrific rise.

“If you have got two going it is going to be quite crippling.”

Mary Caddick said: “As a sole parent on low income it has come as a bit of a shock.

“I had just got my head round having to pay a bus fare then to find out it is going to increase so much is even more of a shock.”

Ines Cavill said: “For some it is a major consideration. We are told that children can make a choice but it is only a choice if you are not worried about the bus fares.

“I have known of children who have a strong interest in the visual arts which is Woodroffe’s speciality and they have been put off because of the bus fares.”

Mrs Caddick said there was also the broader issue of trying to be a more ecological society and encourage people not to use cars.

She added: “This isn’t the right way to go about it.”

A First spokesman said: “The reality is our bus network, particularly Services 31 and X53, have lost around £300,000 in financial support from local authorities in recent years.

“The end of this funding has meant we have had to focus on what we need to do to operate value for money services with a clear price structure. As a result of the recent restructuring, fares have gone up on Services 31 and X53, but equally some of our fares have reduced elsewhere especially on the routes operating within the Weymouth town area. We can assure our customers that decisions to make significant changes to our fare structure are never taken lightly but it has been done in order to secure the long-term future of our services in the area.”

Dorset County Councillor, Ros Kayes said: “Unfortunately DCC can't intervene because they do not commission these services any longer.”

She said there might be a competition issue as the bus was the only form of transport for the children legally obliged to go to school.

She said: “First has a monopoly on this journey and therefore a decision to increase fares by 50 per cent may well be open to challenge. I am hoping that the company will agree to meet with myself and parents’ representatives as soon as possible.”