Extra bus seats provided to help children get back to school

HUNDREDS of extra bus seats are being laid on next month to help children back to school and commuters get to work.

An additional 1,160 temporary places are being created on some of the busiest routes where commercial services with seat restrictions in place wouldn’t be able to carry all potential passengers.

At present around 1,500 of the 8,000 pupils entitled to free home-to-school transport use public service routes rather than dedicated school buses.

Jonathan Price, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Education (and SEND), said: "Getting pupils back to school when term begins is a priority and we’re doing all we can to support them.

"There is a limited number of spare buses and drivers available at peak time so we’ve looked at the busiest public routes where there simply wouldn’t be enough space for pupils and commuters under current limitations and have temporarily duplicated 29 routes to create an additional 1,160 places.

"As well as ensuring the council is meeting its legal duty to ensure children entitled to free transport can get to school, this will help some pupils not entitled to free transport and also free up the busiest commercial routes for commuters.”

Every child entitled to a free travel pass is allocated a route number and instructions where to check for details of routes and running times. Information is being uploaded as soon as it is confirmed and parents should keep checking the website.

Duplicate services may run before or after the original scheduled service and entitled pupils are asked to board the ‘special’ service rather than choose between the two. All pupils are urged to use face coverings, to take a seat as far back as possible, wash hands before and after travelling and use hand sanitiser when necessary.

Duplicate services are being provided where necessary across the county including Burton, Biddulph, Stafford, Uttoxeter, Cheadle, Newcastle, Tamworth, Lichfield, Cannock and Coven. The full list is on this webpage.

By using larger vehicles on some routes and transferring pupils entitled to free transport to duplicate services and to rerouted school buses, the temporary changes also create additional space on commercial services for fare paying passengers, including pupils and commuters.

Coun Price said: "All parents were sent a letter via schools before the end of summer term, outlining the need for those not entitled to free travel to plan ahead for the autumn. Parents understand it’s their responsibility to get their children to school and we’re working with them to help where we can.”

Arrangements are also in place for pupils entitled to Home to School Transport who catch dedicated school buses and parents have been notified directly of the plans.

Coun Price added: "Every day we move 8,000 children who are entitled to free Home to School transport and this has been a massive operation during the summer holidays to put the new arrangements in place in time.

Schools and transport operators have been determined to make this work and I thank them for helping us do all we can in a difficult situation.”

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