School bus campaigners slam latest Bucks County Council statement

Bucks Community School Transport Issues campaigners. Inset, councillors Mark Shaw and Anita Cranmer
Bucks Community School Transport Issues campaigners. Inset, councillors Mark Shaw and Anita Cranmer

Representatives of campaign group 'Bucks Community School Transport Issues' have reacted angrily to a statement released by Bucks County Council (BCC) earlier this week regarding progress on the home to school bus fiasco.

Previously we reported that 72% of applicants for a paid-for bus seat were unsuccessful and parents were only informed a few days before the start of term. Those who were successful did not get their passes on time.

On Monday this week, the campaign group met with Councillors Anita Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills and Mark Shaw, Cabinet Member for Transportation, and the feeling afterwards was described to this paper as “positive” by Siobhan Adams, representing the group.

However, this feeling appears to have soured quickly following comments made by BCC in a press release. It read:

“Ashwood Travel, who run the 845 school bus from Farnham to The Beaconsfield School have agreed run a larger bus, providing more than 20 extra seats on the service which was originally full.

“Anita Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills and Mark Shaw, Cabinet Member for Transportation, say:

“We know parents and carers up and down the county haven’t had an easy time of it regarding issues at the start of this school year with the county’s school transport service and we are still working very hard to resolve all the outstanding issues.

“While the county council isn’t obliged to transport children to school, other than those who qualify, we will do what we can to work with local bus companies to help find a solution for local families.

“This is a great example of how we will achieve that and we are delighted we’ve been able to increase capacity on an existing service to get students onto a dedicated school bus and to buy their tickets directly from the bus company.””

Responding over the phone to this paper, Siobhan Adams said:

"I saw the statement and I thought they're taking credit for sorting out our village when actually we've been coordinating and speaking to all the coach companies and negotiating with them.

"If you look at the statement they've made out the bus was full, which of course it wasn't.

"Why are they doing this? It's just caused bad feeling again."

Bucks Community School Transport Issues campaign group also released the following written statement:

“The statement by Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) is misleading and infers that they have been proactive.

“The sad reality is that parents were left with no other option but to seek quick and safe solutions for their children.

“Many parents were left in the dark, anxious and stressed, unable to get answers, despite numerous calls and emails to BCC.

“Whilst Ashwood Travel did confirm that they were in talks with BCC to allow them to sell the extra empty seats on their bus, they also made it absolutely clear that we will be dealing directly with them, including paying them. BCC have nothing to do with this arrangement.

“Please also note, the bus was not full for all those weeks since the start of school – presumably also meaning that BCC lost potential revenue.

“To make matters worse, on the day that parents accepted places on the Ashwood coach, BCC sent out various emails to some parents. Confusingly, some parents received three different emails, saying different things including one saying that BCC are happy to offer their child a place, and another saying they could not.

“We must also add, that there is still a large group of parents/carers across the county who have not received any emails and are still wondering what to do.”

If you have experienced issues with home to school bus passes recently, then as well as contacting Bucks County Council, please also inform the 'Bucks Community School Transport Issues' Facebook group.