Victoria's Economy and Infrastructure Committee has opened a public inquiry into the possibility of giving the general public access to regional and rural school buses, but operators have raised concerns about the safety of the changes.
The Legislative Council's Economy and Infrastructure Committee inquiry will involve assessing the viability of extending mainstream school buses to the general public, to give people in rural areas a greater opportunity to travel.
But Sandlant Buses owner Graeme Sandlant expressed some concern about how the system would work in the Grampians.
"The proposal should not be assessed just on cost saving for government," he said.
"The proposal must be considered carefully to ensure any negatives are identified.
"We cannot say, have the wrong types of people using the school bus student transport system and we have to ask who will be the responsible person, or authority to ensure the system is kept safe.
"For over one hundred years we have provided a safe service to the Grampians region and we have a duty of care to protect those kids when they use our bus service."
Sandlant Buses operate around the Grampians, linking students in rural areas to the schools in Stawell and Ararat.
"There is no doubt the rural mainstream school bus system could play a role in providing capacity for the smaller rural towns and areas for the transport disadvantaged to utilise spare seating to attend health and other day to day living essential," Mr Sandlant said.
"However it should be recognised that the school bus system has stood the test of time because it has been dedicated primarily to rural students education opportunities.
"These days with local primary schools closing down, we are now finding an increasing number of rural primary school students using the school bus system to get their education in the larger centres."
The Legislative Council's Economy and Infrastructure Committee Chair Enver Erdogan said: "this inquiry will look at the transport disadvantages experienced by rural and regional Victorians, particularly youth, the elderly and low-income households".
"We would like to hear from as many people as possible across our state so we can get a true picture of the transport limitations faced by rural and regional Victorians.
"Their experiences will be important as we seek to understand how school buses could be used to get more people connected socially and economically."
Mr Erdogan is encouraging parents to have their say as the inquiry considers any existing or potential barriers to allowing public access to the school bus network.
"Input from parents will help guide this inquiry, particularly in relation to important issues such as child safety," he said.
The inquiry is due to hand down a final report before the end of the year.
To make a submission visit the Committee's website.
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