Campaign launched to save 'vital' Lancaster school bus service from the axe
Dozens of children will be forced to walk to school from September after Lancashire County Council withdrew financial support for a much-needed, but "loss-making" bus service.
Parents were told in a letter from Central Lancaster High School that the S24 service from the Marsh Estate to the school in Crag Road, will not resume when the new term begins in September.
Concerned mums and dads say the service is "well-used" and if scrapped, it will be unsafe for children to walk to and from school, especially during the dark winter evenings.
County council bosses insist the service is making a loss and it should be have been scrapped in 2019, however, officials decided to keep it running for an extra two years. The cost of providing the bus is an estimated £36,000, and it is only making around £15,000 in fares - leaving the authority to plug a £21,000 gap to keep it going.
Now, Lancaster Green and Eco Socialist councillors have joined a campaign supporting parents and a petition has been launched urging the county council to perform a u-turn on its decision.
Eco-Socialist City Councillor Faye Penny said: "As a city councillor and parent of a Year 7 pupil who frequently uses this bus, I'm disappointed and angry to hear that Lancashire County Council have decided to scrap the service. My 12-year-old daughter relies on the school bus to get her to school warm, dry and safe, as do many other children from the Marsh. It's ridiculous that they're being forced to find other ways to get to school which will no doubt increase the already congested roads on the Ridge Estate every morning and afternoon. It will also increase the time pressure and financial burden on parents arranging for their children to get to school."
Green City Councillor for Marsh Ward, Mandy Bannon added: "I am shocked and dismayed that the County Council has decided to abandon a well-used and much-needed school bus service. We should not be cancelling public transport during the pandemic and climate emergency – instead, we should be supporting and promoting it. Young people deserve to get to school in a safe and stress-free way. Me and my fellow ward councillor, Gina Dowding will be campaigning on behalf of local parents and their children to keep this route maintained."
Central Lancaster High School confirmed that the bus route is well used with 55 pupils using it regularly. The school has written to parents to tell them the news which has been greeted with dismay by many who have signed a petition in protest.
Shocked parent, Jill Lawton, said she was "gobsmacked" when she heard the news. She commented: "I'm a parent of a 14-year-old girl who attends Central Lancaster High School and I was gobsmacked to read about the stoppage of the bus. My daughter uses the serviice every day for school at a cost of £3 return, along with around 20-25 other kids. Car share is certainly not an option - we are in a pandemic so it's not safe. Public transport is more expensive. Also if parents/grandparents are taking kids to school, what about pollution/car fumes to our environment and disturbing the residents of the Ridge Estate?"
Responding, a spokesman for Lancashire County Council, said: "In 2019 we adopted a revised policy designed to ensure a fair and consistent approach to supporting school transport, and ensure resources are prioritised for those children for whom we have a statutory responsibility to provide home to school transport.
"As part of this it was agreed no longer to continue to provide financial support to school bus services which have not been used by any child with a statutory entitlement for the previous two years, however to provide a further year's support beyond this to give parents notice, and provide the school with an opportunity to consider funding the service, or approach potential providers who may wish to offer a commercial service.
"We initially advised Central Lancaster High School that we would no longer be able to continue to support Service S24 in July 2019, however, we have been able to continue our support until the end of the 2020/2021 academic year due to funding received from the government to provide extra capacity on public transport during the pandemic. We will continue to provide free home to school transport for all children who are entitled to receive it."
Anyone wishing to sign the petition, is asked to CLICK HERE