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We will be carrying out a three-week pilot exercise to encourage secondary school pupils who currently use non-statutory subsidised school transport to use active travel routes, public bus services or a pilot bus service provided by Stagecoach to get to and from school.

From Wednesday 29 May to Friday 14 June 2024, non-statutory subsidised school transport will be withdrawn, and pupils who are currently receiving the service will be encouraged to use:

  • active travel options such as walking routes to schools which formed the basis of recent engagement work with young people and parents
  • public bus services with the Young Persons’ Free Bus Travel Scheme card – since the introduction of this free scheme in January 2022, some families have already cancelled their subsidised transport requirement due to the free service bus provision
  • a pilot bus service provided by Stagecoach which will run directly from the north west of Kilmarnock to New Farm Loch for three weeks, stopping at both Kilmarnock Academy and St Joseph’s Academy. Stagecoach intends to use double-decker vehicles due to the anticipated number of young people that may use the service (around 60% of the total number of pupils who use the non-statutory subsidised service are in this area) - see pilot timetables below

Watch a video about the school transport pilot exercise

Pupils sitting exams and assessments

A small number of pupils will be sitting assessments at the start of the pilot period. Information has been sent to their parents or carers to advise that transport will be arranged for them on the affected days should they require it.


Parents and carers who have paid for the non-statutory subsidised school transport places will receive a credit of £18.33 for the three-week period of the pilot.

Public bus timetables and walking routes

Find out about the public bus services and suggested walking routes available for your school and area. You can also download the Stagecoach Bus App for live bus information and journey planning.

Grange Academy, Kilmarnock

Kilmarnock Academy, William McIlvanney Campus

Robert Burns Academy, Cumnock

St Joseph's Academy, Kilmarnock

Suggested walking route from the north of Kilmarnock to St Joseph's Academy (Image 151 KB)

Suggested walking route from the south of Kilmarnock to St Joseph's Academy (Image 176 KB)


Bus service timetable for the Bellfield area:


Bus service timetable for the Caprington area:

Dundonald Road and Irvine Road

Bus service timetable for the Dundonald Road and Irvine Road area:


Bus service timetable for the Hurlford area:

Kilmaurs Road and Hillhead

Bus service timetable for the Kilmaurs Road and Hillhead area:


Pilot bus service timetable for the Onthank area:


Bus service timetable for the Riccarton area:


Bus service timetable for the Shortlees area:


Pilot bus service timetable for the Southcraigs area:


Bus service timetable for the Wardneuk area:

Non-statutory school transport review timeline

  • May/June 2024 - pilot scheme begins
  • July/August 2024 - analyse pilot scheme results
  • August/September 2024 - review active travel routes
  • September 2024 - engagement with parents, carers and Primary 7 pupils
  • September 2024 - report submitted to East Ayrshire Council's Cabinet meeting
  • October 2024 to June 2025 - review upgrades required to active travel routes
  • June 2025 - proposed withdrawal of non-statutory subsidised school transport

Frequently asked questions

Why is this pilot exercise being carried out?

This exercise is being carried out due to the budget constraints that the Council is currently facing.

East Ayrshire is the only local authority in Scotland that provides a non-statutory subsidised school transport service, and with the cost to the Council for this now being in excess of half a million pounds for the 2023–24 academic year, this is no longer sustainable. 

The non-statutory subsidised school transport service was introduced in 2013/14 as a means of helping pupils to get to school where they lived at least one and a half miles and up to three miles from their catchment school, with families required to pay 25% towards the cost.

Over the intervening years the cost to the Council has significantly increased with changes to:

  • school catchment areas
  • new house building
  • increases in pupils entitled to free school meals
  • significant inflationary pressures
  • improved vehicle standards

What is the difference between statutory and non-statutory subsidised school transport?

Statutory subsidised school transport is provided free to secondary pupils who live three miles or more from their local secondary school (by the recognised shortest suitable walking distance).

Non-statutory subsidised school transport is available to secondary school pupils who live between one and a half and three miles from their catchment area school. We are currently the only local authority in Scotland that provides this service.

Why is the trial taking place in May/June?

This allows Stagecoach to identify what the lowest possible number of passengers will be to assess the viability of the service across the year.

Are primary schools involved in the pilot exercise?

No, the pilot exercise only involves secondary schools.

Why are Loudoun and Doon Academies excluded from the pilot exercise?

There are no pupils that access the non-statutory subsidised service from these schools.

When is the non-statutory subsidised service likely to be withdrawn?

This is planned for June 2025.

Why are double-decker vehicles being used as part of the pilot scheme?

Double-decker vehicles are being used due to the anticipated number of young people that may use the service (around 60% of the total number of pupils who use the non-statutory subsidised service are in the areas in which the double-deckers are being used).

These will travel on urban routes within 30mph zones.

What if the bus my young person tries to get on is too busy?

Stagecoach, together with the Council, have taken into account the increased number of young people who will be travelling and there have been no capacity issues identified. We will continue to monitor this.

What about supervision on the public bus?

There is currently no supervision on any school bus. Stagecoach buses are monitored by CCTV and any incidents will be reported through the campus police officers.

How have the active travel routes been identified?

All routes have been assessed by our Road Safety team as being the most suitable routes for pupils walking or cycling to school.

What if the walking routes are not well lit when it comes to the darker months?

All routes have been assessed and the lighting levels are compliant with standard lighting for urban areas. The routes also take account of all existing safety features such as pedestrian crossings.

Will a lot of young people not just cut through Dean Park?

The route through Dean Park will be assessed based on the feedback from the pilot.

Will the active travel routes be monitored during the pilot exercise?

Yes, all routes will be monitored and information from this will inform any future upgrades or further actions.

What happens if my young person gets caught in the rain while walking to school?

Each school has spare clothing should a young person require them.

There are currently just over 16,200 pupils across our schools and we transport 3,700 of these to and from school, therefore the majority of pupils already either travel actively to school, use public transport or are driven. Out of those 3,700, only 650 of these are pupils who receive free or subsidised transport.

What if my young person ends up late for school during this pilot exercise?

Bus timetables are available on this webpage or on the Stagecoach website and app. These can be used to work out which bus to get so that the young person makes it to school on time.

It’s the responsibility of parents and carers to ensure that their young person gets to school on time.

What if my young person has an issue around travelling to and from school?

If your young person has a particular issue around the journey to and from school, please speak directly to your school.

Will there be increased traffic around the schools due to the pilot exercise?

To decrease the likelihood of any increased traffic around schools, we would encourage pupils to use the recommended bus routes or active travel routes.

If any parents or carers are dropping off or collecting young people, we would encourage them to use the Park and Stride facilities if possible.

What work has been carried out to prepare for the pilot exercise?

An exercise was undertaken to review the locations of those pupils accessing non-statutory subsidised school transport with locally available bus routes. This showed that there are local buses services within reasonable walking distance for all communities currently receiving non-statutory subsidised school transport.

A working group involving representatives from transport, traffic, road safety, education, Stagecoach and Police Scotland was also set up to monitor demand for the service and to consider opportunities to enhance active travel in order to provide options to transition away from the non-statutory subsidised model.

Part of the group’s work involved consulting with parents, carers, young people and headteachers about the proposed walking routes to their schools and the use of local bus services. The aim was to understand whether pupils would use the options suggested for the pilot scheme and to mitigate any concerns that were raised. Some respondents noted that they already make use of the public bus services; and the introduction of a direct bus from north Kilmarnock was largely welcomed.

What happens after the pilot exercise?

All of the feedback from the consultation already carried out, in addition to the outcomes from the pilot exercise, will be reported back to Cabinet following the summer recess.

This will inform further detailed consultation and recommendations on the future of the service. The non-statutory subsidised school transport service is currently proposed to remain in place until June 2025.

Contact Information


School Transport Section
Opera House
8 John Finnie Street
Telephone: 01563 576334