Future of Winterbourne Academy School buses in doubt

PARENTS of some secondary school children from Coalpit Heath and Frampton Cotterell have been warned that their bus service faces an uncertain future.

The 460 service, operated by Stagecoach, takes pupils to Winterbourne Academy and back every school day.

It is one of five services, run either commercially or with subsidies, whose future next term is in doubt because of financial issues.

The others are the 427 from Frenchay via Hambrook, the 458 from Fishponds via Downend, the 459 via Emersons Green and Lyde Green and the 936 from Patchway, Bradley Stoke and Little Stoke.

Four of the services are run by Stagecoach, with the other run by Transpora.

Their future in the next school year is undecided as the school, bus companies, South Gloucestershire Council and the West of England Combined Authority discuss how they should be funded.

Parents were sent a letter by Winterbourne Academy head teacher Jenny Cartwright in early June, which said: “We have been meeting with the bus companies, with SGC and with WECA and will continue to do in the weeks ahead to try and clarify the situation, so that we can communicate it clearly and accurately to all parents affected.
“Following a meeting in the half term break, we can report that there is no final, definitive outcome for of any of these routes at present for next academic year.

“With term 6 beginning and the end of the school year approaching, we have been emphasizing the urgency of being able to inform parents as soon as possible and all parties concerned are aware of this pressing need to make the transport routes clear for September.

“However, there remain a wide range of unknown factors that will affect the viability of routes, such as changes in funding, possible additional subsidies and the impact of recent changes in political leadership in the area, which make it impossible to give clear information at present.

“I realise that this will be worrying to many families. Please do raise your concerns with local representatives in South Gloucestershire Council or the West of England Metro Mayor. It is frustrating, as a school who has no control over the buses or bus routes, to have no clear answers.”

The school was hoping to update parents by the end of June but after “key person” at the council went on leave, it is not expected to be resolved before July.

A spokesperson for South Gloucestershire Council said: “The West of England Combined Authority is the local transport authority, but we are working closely with them and bus operators around these services as we recognise the importance of children being able to travel safely to school.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson for Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “The school buses to Winterbourne Academy are supported buses so the responsibility for funding lies with South Glos Council.

“South Gloucestershire Council have a duty to provide free transport to school if the school attended is the nearest appropriate one, and the distance between home and that school, when measured by the nearest available walking route, is three miles or more for children aged eight years to sixteen years.”

Update: Three bus routes saved