PARENTS say their children face “potentially dangerous” journeys to school after a bus service was axed.
More than 600 people have signed a petition calling for a rethink of the decision to cancel the 458 service, taking children from Fishponds and Downend to Winterbourne Academy, from the start of term in September.
A reorganisation of other services would see some pupils have to get on a bus before 7am, and arrive at the secondary school just after 7.30am.
Parents are calling on operator Stagecoach, South Gloucestershire Council, which funds school buses, and Metro Mayor Dan Norris, who has overall responsibility for transport, to reverse a decision which “jeopardises the safety of our children” and could also add to congestion on the roads.
Many of the children from Downend, Frenchay and Emersons Green who use the buses to attend Winterbourne Academy go there because they were unable to get places at Downend School.
As the summer holidays started Stagecoach announced that, while some services to the school, including the 427 from Frenchay via Hambrook and the 459 from Emersons Green via Bromley Heath, would be funded by the council, the 458, which ran from Straits Parade in Fishponds through Downend and Bromley Heath, “unfortunately…will no longer run”.
New timetables for the other services show they have been ‘stacked’, with one bus carrying out two routes, one after another.
This means the first morning stop for the 459, at Emersons Green Science Park, will be at 6.50am, and it will arrive at Winterbourne Academy at 7.35am before setting off to collect more children.
A petition calling for the decision to axe buses to be reconsidered had gained 690 supporters as the Voice went to print.
Parent Claire Virtue, who started the petition, said: “This decision not only jeopardises the safety of our children but also poses a significant threat to our environment due to increased traffic congestion. Without access to reliable public transportation, many students are now forced to walk long distances, along unsafe roads or rely on private vehicles for their daily commute.”
Another parent, Jacqueline Coakham, told the Voice: “The loss of the 458 with no replacement bus transport in place is just unfathomable, given that we have to send our children to Winterbourne school, which is 4.5 miles from our house, because our children cannot get into our closest school, Downend.”
On August 18 the council, which says it is spending £352,000 to support five school bus services, announced that the route of the 459 was being amended and “will serve Downend to help mitigate the loss of the existing service”.
However, parent Jenny Rawling said many pupils who had used the 458 faced a long walk to reach the stop in the centre of Downend by 7.12am for the 459.
She added: “The fact remains you can’t fit two bus loads of children on to one bus.”
A council spokesperson said that WECA, as the local transport authority, “is responsible for bus services in the region”.
However a spokesperson for Metro Mayor Dan Norris said it was the council’s responsibility to provide free transport to the “nearest appropriate” school if it was more than three miles away.
Simon Turner, of Frenchay, who is concerned that the 427 service his children use will become overcrowded, called on the council and Metro Mayor to stop blaming each other and “sit down like grown-ups” to find a solution.
The parents are being backed by Frenchay & Downend ward councillors Raj Sood and Liz Brennan, who said it was “hugely frustrating” that the 458 was being axed.
The petition can be found on the change.org website, at tinyurl.com/mvjn9yaf.