Par­ents an­gry af­ter pupils left to wait for school buses

The Wokingham Paper - - NEWS - By JAMES HAST­INGS news@wok­ing­ham­pa­

FU­RI­OUS par­ents claim their chil­dren are be­ing put at risk go­ing to school af­ter a bus com­pany changed its timetable.

They claim hun­dreds of pupils are be­ing forced to walk along busy roads and are ar­riv­ing late for class af­ter ser­vices were cut.

And they fear the prob­lems will get worse as win­ter sets in with pupils at­tend­ing af­ter school events at Bo­hunt and Holt hav­ing to wait half an hour in the dark to get home.

Par­ents voiced their anger on a Face­book page af­ter claim­ing Read­ing Buses have ig­nored their pleas as well as con­cerns from head teach­ers who they say had warned the com­pany the changes would cause chaos to pupils at­tend­ing both schools.

Karen Sarin from Fin­champ­stead says her daugh­ter who is in Year 7 at Bo­hunt, faces a 45-minute de­lay just to get to school.

“My daugh­ter and her friends have to walk half a mile along an un­made road in a fairly des­o­late area and then wait 45 min­utes for the bus to ar­rive,” she ex­plained.

“Buses used to stop twice out­side the school in the morn­ing and twice af­ter school but that ser­vice has now been halved. Last year, the school had a rel­a­tively small in­take of just 100 pupils, but that num­ber rose to 240 this year so the timetable changes have caused chaos.

“Par­ents and the head teacher pre-empted this prob­lem and urged Read­ing Buses to do some­thing but the com­pany just doesn't seem to care. Surely it has a moral obli­ga­tion to the mem­bers, par­tic­u­larly chil­dren, of the com­mu­nity to en­sure a reg­u­lar and safe bus route is avail­able?”

Karen said she pays £500 a year for her daugh­ter’s bus pass which can only be used in term times.

He­len Church, whose daugh­ter is in year 8 at the Holt School is also an­gry at the changed timetable: “Pupils at­tend­ing af­ter school classes have to leave early to catch the bus or they face a 40 minute wait for the next one.

“As par­ents we are very con­cerned the sit­u­a­tion will only get worse in the win­ter with pupils hav­ing to walk along dark roads then wait­ing ages for a bus which is al­ways over­crowded as they only use sin­gle decker buses.

“I spoke to Read­ing Buses but their at­ti­tude was dis­grace­ful. They es­sen­tially told me they were not paid to run a bus for the school.”

Other fu­ri­ous par­ents took to Face­book to voice their fears.

One wrote: “My daugh­ter has to leave the house at 7.10am to catch the bus at 7.21. Ar­riv­ing at school (if it's on time) about 50mins early! While be­ing early is not a tragedy, stand­ing at a bus stop in the dark at 12 is. In the win­ter months, she will be ar­riv­ing home at 4.45pm in the dark alone. I'd like to know the ra­tio­nale for this dras­tic change.”

An­other added: “The bus from Bo­hunt doesn't leave un­til 4.15 and then my son has to walk home. Not too bad in sum­mer months but don't think this is ac­cept­able in the win­ter when it's dark at 4pm. He also leaves at 7.30am to go to school. It's s very long day for 12 year olds.”

A spokeper­son from Read­ing Buses said “Our leop­ard route in this area is an hourly pub­lic bus ser­vice which has to meet var­i­ous pub­lic needs, not just schools, and th­ese are not ded­i­cated school jour­neys.

“The buses run along a route with many schools and we try to meet as many times as we can. It is also prob­lem­atic man­ag­ing school (and com­muter) needs ver­sus the ex­tremely vari­able con­ges­tion along the route.

“Bo­hunt School only opened in Septem­ber 2016, so its travel pat­terns are still evolv­ing – how­ever we have been in dis­cus­sions with the school about how best to get the pupils to and from lessons on time, which has re­sulted in changes to cer­tain jour­neys to ac­com­mo­date this where pos­si­ble, in­clud­ing a re­cent re-tim­ing of the 07.50am ar­rival from Wok­ing­ham to 08.14am in the lat­est timetable.

“The re­turn jour­ney had al­ways de­parted the school at 4.10pm, but due to traf­fic chal­lenges it has now been tweaked slightly to de­part at 4.15pm. The school it­self changed its fin­ish­ing time from 3.15pm to 3.30pm and so whilst still not a per­fect fit, the wait­ing time has been re­duced by this.

“Whilst we try to ac­com­mo­date as many school move­ments as we can, with­out a ded­i­cated ser­vice for each school (which our Leop­ard route isn’t) there is al­ways a risk that changes made to ac­com­mo­date one school may then af­fect an­other school – which we be­lieve has been the case with Holt School (whose pupils we were not orig­i­nally aware were us­ing our bus).

“With­out fund­ing from ei­ther a lo­cal au­thor­ity or the schools them­selves, we have to do our very best to pro­vide com­mer­cially self-funded school jour­neys. If there are very spe­cific needs for school jour­neys at cer­tain times of the day which are not pro­vided for by main­stream com­mer­cial bus ser­vices, then the re­spec­tive lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­ity may wish to look into this.

“For our Jan­uary timetable change we are seek­ing to re­solve as many is­sues raised as pos­si­ble and we con­tinue to wel­come feed­back from cus­tomers and schools alike to im­prove the ser­vices fur­ther (such as the change to the morn­ing jour­ney for Bo­hunt, which was specif­i­cally made af­ter par­ent feed­back last year), but we do have to bear in mind that this is and al­ways has been an hourly pub­lic bus ser­vice and there is only so much that can be achieved with it.”

Read­ing Buses’ Leop­ard ser­vice timetable has been crit­i­cised by par­ents

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