The Departments of Transport and Education have joined forces to create the Links to School programme, a boost to the existing Safe Routes to School campaign from Sustrans and a means of expanding the National Cycle Network for all. The news was announced by the Secretaries of State Alistair Darling and Charles Clarke at a London primary school this morning. A new School Transport Bill will bring the first changes to school transport legislation in over 60 years.

Safe Routes to School gets £10m from government

The Links to Schools Programme has been made possible by a DfT grant of £10m.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said:

"As well as being fun, cycling improves health, reduces school-gate congestion and pollution and provides our

children with a sense of independence. But we need to persuade more children, and their parents, that they can cycle to school safely.

"Today’s announcement is a real step in the right direction to persuade more children to cycle more safely, more often.

"We are determined to ensure that cycling and walking to school become a safe and healthy option for children and reassure parents that their children are safe when travelling to and from school. This investment builds upon the

annual investment of more than £20m a year which the Departments for Transport and Education are making in the Travelling to School initiative."

Links to Schools will extend the National Cycle Network, bringing it closer to schools and, by joining up residential areas to schools, make it easier for young people to walk or cycle. It is expected that more than 230 schools will

directly benefit via the funding to 100 local authorities.

Sustrans’ Chief Executive John Grimshaw welcomed the cash boost:

"We know that concern for our children’s safety is a major barrier to cycling and walking yet half an hour

of physical activity a day – such as walking or cycling to and from school – makes a real difference to keeping fit and healthy.

"29 percent of boys and 43 percent of girls under 16 have less than 30 minutes of physical activity on most days – the daily minimum level of activity recommended by the Health Education Authority.

"Sustrans believes that a safe route to school is not a luxury it is a necessity this funding will allow us to begin realising our vision to give every child in the country access to a safe walking or cycling route to their school and

thus get into the habit for future life."

A School Transport Bill will be introduced to parliament today to enable up to 20 local education authorities to introduce new schemes to tackle the congestion caused by the motorised ‘school run.’

Each LEA will be able to access up to £200 000 government funding to kick start each scheme.

The School Transport Bill would bring the first changes to school transport legislation in over 60 years

Education secretary Charles Clarke, a former chairman of the parliamentary cycling group, said:

"Twice as many children are driven to school now in comparison with 20 years ago – around 40 percent of primary pupils and 20 percent of secondary pupils. Most of these journeys are less than two miles, meaning decreasing numbers of children walking or cycling with serious health implications in terms of lack of daily exercise and the growing proportion of children who are overweight.

"Our proposals would encourage local education authorities to come up with 21st century solutions to make walking, cycling and bus travel safe, green, healthy options for more schools and their pupils."

The £10m funding announced today is on top of the £14m of capital grants available to 2400 schools delivered by

‘Travelling to School: An Action Plan’, launched in September 2003. This Action Plan funds school travel advisers in all local authorities and introduced lessons through geography, PSHE, and citizenship to explain the benefits

of sustainable travel.

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