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Labour pledges free travel for sixth-formers

Young people who stay in full-time education or training after the age of 16 would get free bus and train passes under a future Labour government, the party will announce today.

In the first concrete pledge from Labour's root-and-branch policy review under Ed Miliband, the party leadership will make the ambitious £175m-a-year pledge amid signs the high cost of travel is deterring students from continuing their education.

Local authorities must cut their spending by 27 per cent over four years and many have reduced concessionary travel for 16- to 19-year-olds. The Government's decision to scrap the education maintenance allowance, worth up to £30 a week for children from poor families, will also leave many young people worse off. Bus routes are also being axed, making it harder to get to school or college.

Travel costs for sixth-form students has emerged as a major public concern during Labour's policy review on transport. The free local travel pledge will be made by Maria Eagle, the shadow Transport Secretary, at a summit for young people in Westminster.

The shadow minister will say: "Our policy choices should reflect the values we hold. We've listened to young people... and they have been very clear with what they have said. They do understand the importance of staying on in education and getting the skills they need to reach their potential. And they look to government to remove the barriers in their way, be those financial or the availability of services. It should be an aspiration of the next Labour government to deliver free access to local public transport for young people who continue in education and training."