UK carbon emissions: is school transport the way to NET zero?


How reforming school transport to a dedicated school bus service can reduce the UK’s school congestion and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

In light of COP26 and the global effort to reduce carbon emissions, a recent article by the BBC on ‘How our daily travel harms the planet’ looked at many ways that our country can be more sustainable. However, the thing that stood out to me the most was their acknowledgement that the way that students get to school needs to be completely reformed.

“A generation ago, 70% of British children walked to school, but now less than half do, despite studies showing children who walk or bike to school tend to be more focused and are less likely to be overweight. Fewer cars around the school gate also means less local air pollution”. BBC article on ‘How our daily travel harms the planet’.

BBC article on ‘How our daily travel harms the planet’

The issue with this article however is that walking or cycling to school (as good as it may be) is not always a viable option for students. Other forms such as buses & coaches would be a better and more realistic option.

Here are some issues with encouraging students to just walk/cycle to school as the only sustainable form of transport.

Not an option for students who live further away

If a student lives a considerable distance from the school, then walking/cycling will not work for their situation. Therefore, they will need to find an alternative form of transport. Especially during bad weather or the winter months. A more viable sustainable option for these students would be travelling by Public Transport.

Cycling is less sociable

A largely overlooked and important part of school is social interaction with friends and other students. Like personal transportation, cycling does not offer students the opportunity to interact with their friends/peers before and after school unlike walking or public transport.

Walking & cycling can be unsafe

At times of school start and finish, there is increased traffic on the roads due to work and school rush hour. This puts students walking or cycling to school at increased risk of being in an accident. Particularly younger children.

Weather is a huge factor

The British weather is notorious for being cold, wet, and windy, making it some of the worst conditions for students walking or cycling. In these worse conditions, personal or public transport would more than likely be preferred.

Parents worry about their child’s safety

With personal transport, parents know whether their child is getting to school safely. Whereas with other forms such as walking, cycling or public transport, they would have to join their child on the journey to make sure they are safe.


Overall, this BBC article makes some great points about improving school transport sustainability however overlooks the most realistic and efficient solution of all. The best solution is to have a dedicated school bus service. A service that utilises hybrid/electric/hydrogen technology along with mobile technology to give parents and schools peace of mind that children have got to and from school safely. This is not only achievable (school buses are very successful in the US) but is rapidly becoming popular in the UK. There needs to be a push for this to be more commonplace across the UK for a real reduction in our carbon emissions to be seen.

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