With less than two weeks until the start of the new academic year, B&NES Council is reassuring parents it is doing “everything it can” to make sure there’s enough capacity on bus services for children.
Due to social distancing, the number of people that can be accommodated on public services has been reduced.
However, the council has been working with transport providers such as First Bus and Faresaver, as well as the transport authority WECA and individual schools, to ensure adequate provision for the start of term.
Councillor Kevin Guy, cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “Although the council has a responsibility to fund and ensure provision for children entitled to free Home-to-School transport, it is not our responsibility to transport non-entitled children to school.
“However, this summer we have worked tirelessly with our partners to try to make sure pupil’s travel needs are met in the light of reduced capacity on public services.
“Working with our colleagues at the West of England Combined Authority, the council has been able to increase the number of buses working on key routes during peak periods.
“Additionally, some buses will be dedicated for school children only and not available to the general public, therefore offering increased passenger capacity.
“I would though urge parents and carers to consider their child’s travel needs carefully. If you can please walk or cycle to school and bear in mind there is likely to be increased congestion around school premises.”
Free Home-to- School Transport
Students who have a taxi, minibus, or dedicated ‘closed-door’ school coach contracted by the council should expect their provision to be similar to what they received before schools closed earlier this year. The Passenger Transport team will write to pupils to confirm details of these arrangements in the coming days.
Parents are being made award that:
- Children will be travelling within their school group, but not in their Year groups or ‘bubbles’.
- Children aged over 11 should wear face coverings and use hand sanitiser.
- A system will be in place to ensure the vehicles used are deep cleaned before and after travel.
Pupils who receive free Home-to-School transport but use a public bus are likely to have a temporary change to their transport in order to relieve the expected pressure on the network.
In particular, students attending Writhington school from Peasedown St John who would previously have used First’s 172/3/4 and Arleen’s 175 service are likely to temporarily be given a seat on the various dedicated ‘closed-door’ coaches that serve the route.
This arrangement will last until at least the October half term.
First will not be running their R2 route from Twerton – Ralph Allen School, but a replacement service is being offered by ABus using a double deck bus.
The Passenger Transport team will write to parents and carers with details of these temporary arrangements.
The council operates a ‘Fare Payer’ scheme that sells spare seats to non-entitled students on contracted routes, where space is available.
Because of Covid-19, the scheme has been delayed this year, however the Passenger Transport team is endeavouring to allocate the spare seats ahead of the start of the new term.
Due to capacity limitations, students may not have their first choice of route or boarding point, but letters will be sent to all those who have been successful in securing a seat as soon as possible.
Face coverings are required on public transport.