Provision of transport services
Transport services are provided and funded through the department’s Student transport Unit (STU). Any changes or variation to SDTP-provided transport services remain the responsibility of the STU, as this ensures bus services continue to meet demand and comply with departmental policy.
The department actively discourages the disruption of students once a travel routine is established. However, bus timetables and travel routes are subject to change, particularly as students start and stop attending each school.
Annual route review process
Prior to the start of each school year all SDTP-provided travel services are reviewed by the STU who looks into the efficiency and viability of each bus route and assesses it against demand. Depending on demand the STU either adds, removes or changes resources or routes.
The STU starts its annual review of student numbers in November and takes into account the December release of the outcomes of applications for the PSD and Disability Inclusion profiles. The department recognises it is not always possible to confirm student numbers prior to the end of the school year, so in some cases other arrangements need to be made.
Where practicable the STU will contact bus operators to discuss changes and seek suggestions before advising a school of any areas where potential changes can be made.
Bus operators are invited to assist their school with its annual review.
Submissions should be received by the STU prior to the end of November so adequate time is allowed for planning.
The STU endeavours to balance families’ needs with the requirement to run efficient services within its funding provision.
The engagement of bus operators for one or more specialist or integrated schools requires the completion of a formal procurement process and a contract between the department and the company providing the service.
The STU will undertake the procurement process in accordance with the Victorian Government Purchasing Board and the department’s requirements.
Students are not permitted to travel more than 120 minutes per trip and services must not be timetabled beyond that limit. However, emergency situations or unforeseen traffic conditions may result in the travel time going beyond the 120 minute time limit.
The STU, when reviewing service demand, may consider variations to services that extend student travel time up to the 120 minute per trip limit.
Bus stops must be established in safe locations where all activities at the stop are conspicuous and visible to road users. There should be sufficient space for parents/carers to wait for or with their children without impeding the safe arrival or departure of the bus and where students can board and alight safely. As far as is practicable, buses should be able to stop clear of passing traffic. The reversing of a bus at a pick-up or drop-off point is not permitted unless it is strictly supervised by a traffic management trained staff member.
Suitable bus stops can be suggested by the principal in consultation with the bus operator and, where required, the STU. Where required, a site assessment will be sought from the relevant road authority (VicRoads or the local council). The STU can provide guidance to schools where required.
The STU is to be notified of all final bus stopping locations.
The STU and bus operators are responsible for ensuring roads used by school buses are suitable for use in all weather conditions. New housing estates with narrow cul-de-sac-style streets, (often known as ‘courts’), are not considered safe for vehicles to enter or exit and must not be used as pick-up or drop-off points.
Any long-term interim, alternative route must be approved by VicRoads or the local council as suitable for school bus traffic in all weather conditions and approved by the STU.
A road or bridge in need of repair should be reported to VicRoads or the local council for urgent attention. If doubt exists as to whether a road has become unsuitable for school bus traffic, the advice of the local council or VicRoads must be obtained by the school or bus operator as soon as possible and provided to STU.
A bus service should not be withdrawn from a section of a route except:
- in cases of emergency
- when the appropriate road authority is unable to certify the route is suitable for school bus traffic in all weather conditions.
Modification of services
New bus services
A proposal for a new service will be considered if:
- there is a minimum of 7 students eligible for the service. If there are less than seven eligible students, the STU will review the need for a new service on a case by case basis
- it is possible to implement the service without a decrease in future demand
- the STU will review the service after 6 months to determine whether the service is removed or maintained.
In instances where a bus service is not appropriate due to student numbers or locations, the STU will provide alternative travel assistance, such as access to a conveyance allowance.
New taxi services
A proposal for a new service will be considered if:
- there is a minimum of three students eligible for the service
- it is possible to implement the service without a decrease in future demand.
The STU will review the service after 6 months to determine whether the service is removed or maintained.
Extensions and variations to existing services
The STU must approve any change to travel services that will affect student travel or the cost of the service.
Schools are required to make an application for the extension or variation of an existing service using Form X and submit it to the STU. The application must include the following details:
- an assessment of existing passengers against travel criteria
- consideration of students who may be able to travel independently
- consideration of a larger vehicle against time, future capacity (coming/going), toilet requirements, whether a conveyance allowance is suitable for any families.
Maintaining a service
Over time students accessing a service may decrease. A bus service will continue to be offered for as long as the number of eligible students who cannot be accommodated on another bus service remains at six or more.
If the number of students falls below six the STU will conduct a service level review of the school’s bus network. It is likely in some circumstances that the bus service will be removed and relocated to another network or terminated if surplus to the state’s requirements.
A taxi service will continue to be offered for as long as the number of eligible students who cannot be accommodated on another service remains at three or more. If the number of students falls below three the taxi service will be removed. Where appropriate, a taxi service will be phased out when the student it was established for no longer attends school or requires transport assistance. The STU reviews and authorises all taxi routes during Term 4 for the following school year.
Exceptions to the total number of students required to maintain a service will be rare but may occur in isolated areas. Cases are considered on their merits by the STU.
Dead running (bus services only)
A student is not permitted to access a bus during dead running time. If a student lives close to a bus service’s ‘dead running’ route, the principal can put forward a case to the STU for the route to be extended to allow for student access. These are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Special safety requirements
The department recognises that some students travelling on an SDTP-provided service may require support or equipment additional to standard seatbelts to ensure their safety and comfort during the journey.
Parents/carers must be involved in the decision to use additional safety equipment. Additional equipment is to be supplied by the student’s parents/carers.
Seatbelts and modifications
All buses used on SDTP-provided services are required to have seatbelts. If seatbelts are available, they must be used.
SDTP – provided buses and taxis must comply with these regulations at all times.
Pupil free days
Services will not operate on pupil free days and public holidays. On non-state-wide pupil free days, schools are required to advise the STU and bus operators when services are not required. The claim for payment advice submitted for this period should indicate that services were not provided on such days.
Reviewed 28 November 2023