A DECISION to cut school bus services has come in for heavy criticism.
Parents have hit out at Hampshire County Council after leaders have decided to cut £450,000 from its subsidy budget.
The decision has left the future of several school bus services in doubt and one parent told The News to expect ‘chaos’ during the school run as car congestion increases.
But the county council has defended itself, saying government cuts have left it with no option and that eligible children – such as those who get free school meals or cannot walk to school – will still get transport support.
Karen Griffiths, 43, from Hayling Island, said the decision – to come into effect from September – was short-sighted.
Her six-year-old daughter uses the bus to get to Mill Rythe School on Hayling Island – where there is already a parking scrum every morning and afternoon.
She said: ‘It’s ridiculous.
‘It’s going to make the parking worse. We need to be encouraging more people on to buses, not fewer.
‘People are now going to grow up thinking it’s okay to drive everywhere.
‘We need more people on buses, walking, or cycling. At Mill Rythe there’s going to be at least 20 more cars. It’s going to be chaos.’
Caren Austin-Lea, director of Emsworth and District Motor Services, said she believed there would be ‘uproar’ about the decision.
She is considering having to withdraw services 646, 645, 635, 637 and 636.
She said: ‘It’s sad for the children. It’s going to cause local parents aggravation. It’s sad for us because I’m going to have to cut some of the services.
‘We’ve been serving the county council since 1981. We are working out now what is financially viable and what is not.’
Matthew Callow, commercial manager of First Hampshire, said: ‘The subsidy cuts are likely to result in the withdrawal of route 145 between Hambledon and Emsworth in the new school year starting September and also an extension to X5 services serving St Anne’s Convent School in Southampton.
‘However, we are now in discussions with the affected schools to see if we can find a suitable and workable solution that will get local young people to school and college.’
Councillor Rob Humby, who is in charge of transport in Hampshire, said: ‘No changes have been made to Home to School transport eligibility or provision, so children who are entitled will continue to receive support.
‘What we are talking about here is the withdrawal of subsidies for some bus services currently provided in selected parts of Hampshire, known as “school specials”, which are used by children not entitled to receive Home to School transport support.
‘We will be removing this subsidy paid to bus operators at the end of this academic year and we will then have a consistent approach across the whole of Hampshire, which is fairer to everyone and to all council tax payers.’
Cllr Humby added: ‘The children entitled to home to school transport will continue to receive support, the form of their transport provision will depend on how many of them there are attending each school and where they are coming from.
‘We have also offered to help with advice and to support procurement or discussions with the bus companies where parents or local groups wish to maintain bus services once the county council subsidy is withdrawn.’
SCHOOL SERVICES AFFECTED
Cowplain School - Service 145 from Hambledon to Cowplain
Crookhorn College – Service 145 from Havant to Crookhorn
Hamble Sports College – Service 542 from Park Gate to Hamble
Havant College - Service 145 from Hambledon to Havant
Henry Cort Community College, Fareham - Service 656 from Lowford to Fareham
Horndean Technology College – Service 637 from Purbrook to Horndean, Service 635 from Clanfield to Horndean, and Service 636 from Denmead to Horndean
Liss Infant and Junior Schools - Service 3 from Liss Forest
Mengham Infant and Junior Schools, Hayling – Service 645 from south Hayling
Mill Rythe Infant and Junior, Hayling – Service 645 from south Hayling
Oaklands Catholic School, Waterlooville –
Service 627 from Rowlands Castle to Waterlooville, Service 641 from Emsworth/Southbourne to Waterlooville, and Service 145 from Emsworth and Hambledon to Waterlooville
Sarisbury Infant & Junior – Service 600 from Burridge to Sarisbury
South Downs College, Waterlooville - Service 145 from Havant, Purbrook and Hambledon to Waterlooville.
St Anne’s Catholic Secondary School, Southampton – Service X5 from Fareham and Warsash to Southampton
St Thomas More School, Bedhampton – Service 641/605 from Emsworth to Bedhampton