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Autistic schoolboy "thrown off" bus on first day of disabled travel changes

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Autistic schoolboy "thrown off" bus on first day of disabled travel changes

Published by Josh Kerr at 6:08am 2nd April 2019. (Updated at 3:50pm 2nd April 2019)

An autistic boy in Guildford was refused travel to school yesterday (April 1) as the first day of changes to disabled bus travel came into effect.

14-year-old Max, a student at Guildford County School, was left distressed and upset after being thrown off the Arriva C bus service because he did not have the funds to buy a ticket - something he has not had to do previously.

Monday was the first day that people in Surrey who use disabled bus passes would no longer be able to travel free of charge before 9.30am and after 11pm as part of Surrey County Council budget cuts.

Max, who lives with high functioning autism, qualifies for a disabled pass which has helped ease the every day stress of living with the condition.

However he and his mother Pippa say they were unaware of the changes -  Pippa has now criticised the council for not better publicising them.

Explaining what happened on Max's journey to school, Pippa said:

"It was a complete surprise, I got a few texts and phone calls, because Max was freaking out, from the bus stop saying 'I've been thrown off the bus, they won't let me on, what's going on?'.

"He said there's a £1 charge, he said I don't understand what's going on, he wouldn't let me on.

"The main problem is when you jump on the bus in the morning and you've been just getting used to doing that, when there's a change if you're prepared for it you can handle it and you're ready, but when you have autism a change like that without preparation is really bad."

Pippa said that although it is disappointing she recognised the need for cost savings by the council, but added that they should have done more to inform people of the change.

She said:

"It is what it is and I can handle that now that I know, it's the not knowing that is I think intolerable.

"If there was some communication about it, it wasn't enough - a flyer or something to get out to this area where the bus serves would have been very useful ahead of time because the morning was a car crash."

A Surrey County Council spokesman said:

"We've been working with disabled resident groups, bus operators and individuals along with putting posters up on buses and at bus stations to make sure the changes have been communicated as widely as possible."

Andy Isbell, Arriva Guildford General Manager said:

"We can confirm that the decision to stop concessionary passes being accepted prior to 9.30am was made by Surrey County Council.

"The has been made known for a number of weeks via social media announcements and posters on board our buses.

"Following the council's decision, we have agreed to allow concessionary passengers to travel for just £1 prior to 9.30am, which is a significant discount from a standard peak fare.

"We apologise for the inconvenience this may have caused."

Social enterprises and charities have criticised the move, saying it is discriminatory, and could impact on the ability of some disabled people to get to work and places of education in the mornings., affecting their independence, and hampering their social life.

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