Plans to scrap free school transport for some pupils with special needs were given the green light on Monday – prompting fears that children may be “left at bus stops” if public services are full.

Bucks County Council’s (BCC) cabinet approved plans to cut free travel arrangements for pupils with special educational needs (SEND) over the age of 16 during a meeting on March 4.

Parents will now be asked to contribute to their child’s travel costs – with charges being enforced based on the distance the pupil lives from their school from September this year.

BCC now hopes to encourage more pupils to travel to school independently on public routes.

However councillor for Winslow John Chilver questioned “the reliability of local bus services” after receiving complaints from residents about delayed routes.

Leader of the council Martin Tett raised concerns there will not be space on public buses for the additional pupils– which could result in them being late for school.

He said: “I am really concerned that if we move down this road, what we don’t have is a situation where we have large numbers of children waiting at a bus stop, the bus arrives and there is only capacity for a tiny proportion of them, children are late to school and are disciplined and blamed.

“That is my nightmare scenario. There cannot be a situation when this policy kicks in where we have children left at bus stops because there is insufficient capacity to get them to school.”

Head of integrated transport at BCC, Paul Robson, assured members routes will be closely monitored to ensure buses run on time, students are picked up at the right place and the service providers have enough capacity to cope with the additional demand.

He said: “We will have monitors out there who will follow routes to ensure that they are on time and they do pick up students at the right place.

“There is a whole raft of support that is going to follow this programme – it won’t be simply a case where we progress young people to public services and leave them there.”

The cabinet also agreed that free transport for pupils travelling from Iver to Chalfont Community College and from Ivinghoe to Cottesloe School in Wing, who do not attend their nearest school, will also be axed from September 2020.

Further plans include a complete review of the costs of transport paid for by all pupils, the removal of commissioned transport “where there is a viable public route” and a review of “unnecessary transport”, such as duplicated bus routes.

BCC currently spends £15.1 million a year on getting 9,900 pupils to school – £12.7 million of which goes towards statutory requirements set by government.

Cabinet member for education at BCC, Mike Appleyard, said the council’s school transport bull is increasing by £1 million to £2 million a year which is “rapidly becoming unsustainable”.

He said: “A very large chunk of that increase in recent years has come from significant growth in the number of special needs children we need to support and we are very conscious of the fact that transport for this group of children is crucial.

“So, how do we solve the conundrum that we have got an enormous increase in demand, the cost of providing the service is also increasing beyond inflation, and yet we need to continue to provide a service for a vulnerable group of people? We do therefore need to look at all elements of cost to see where there are opportunities to limit the impact on the total bill.”