Bucks County Council (BCC) are cancelling home to school bus options for some children across the county and telling them to catch a public bus instead, despite their parents having paid and received passes for a dedicated school bus at the start of the school year.
BCC have informed parents this week, just two weeks before the change comes into effect, that they will receive refunds for any upfront fees paid and that they would have to contact local bus companies to negotiate costs going forward.
This comes after BCC had published an announcement earlier this week claiming to have created 1,400 new school bus places.
A parent affected by this change told The Bucks Herald:
“This morning I've had a letter via email saying that on the 4th November, which is the day they go back after half-term, that there's no home to school transport and the new service is the 164 - well that's just the public bus! It goes all around the houses, via Tring, to get to Aylesbury, and doesn't drop off at the bus park like the current bus does.”
The parent told us that the total journey time throughout the day was 38 minutes longer on the public bus, with additional walking distance once off the bus making it almost an hour longer travelling time to and from school for her child each day.
In a prior communication the parent had concluded:
“This behaviour will lead to parents driving into Aylesbury.”
Previously we reported that 72% of applicants for a paid-for bus seat were unsuccessful and parents were only informed of this a few days before the start of term. Those who were successful did not get their passes on time.
In response to this, campaign group 'Bucks Community School Transport Issues' was setup by concerned parents, and BCC had agreed to work with them to resolve the problems. The results have been mixed, with the group recently angered by the council claiming credit for work they had done.
With regards to this latest move by BCC, a representative of Bucks Community School Transport Issues said to us:
“We are unclear what the full agenda is here for Bucks County Council. They appear to make public statements and then contradict them.
“They took this parent's money months ago and then the parent received notification that their child has to get the public bus, where there's no guarantee of space – yet another safeguarding issue.
“They've washed their hands of this child.”
A Buckinghamshire County Council spokesman said: “The new commercial school bus routes being introduced in November are a combination of dedicated school passenger only services and services that are open for use by members of the public as well as school students. We have been successfully placing children onto public routes for some time as part of our standard practice, and many other councils across the UK operate on the same basis. The use of public bus routes is the first step in our school transport application process and it is only if a public bus route is not available that applications can be made for school transport. In practice, we find that the majority of passengers using public school routes are school students.
“Some of these new services will run on a different timetable. Where this is the case, we are informing passengers in advance, to make sure they understand the changes to their particular service and are prepared for when the changes come into operation on 4 November.
“The benefits of using these commercial bus services are that ticket prices are often cheaper for all users of the bus services and the services are more sustainable in the longer-term. Importantly, these services provide additional travel options for the wider community including those who only have access to public transport.
“For further information please see the Q&As on our website.”