Saturday, 28 August 2021

School Bus Solution Found


The now withdrawn S24 school bus

The withdrawal of school bus service S24, between Marsh and Central Lancaster High School from the start of the new school term in September was set to cause problems for significant numbers of children who would have been faced with a two mile uphill walk to school.

The children's walk to school.

Following lobbying by parents, the county council proposed a solution that would have seen the children leaving home half-an-hour earlier and using two Stagecoach local services (services 10 and 11), which would have got them to school twenty minutes before the school gates opened. The only concession to the children's wellbeing was that Stagecoach agreed to amend the bus workings so that both services were operated by the same vehicle, allowing the children to remain on board, albeit with a nine-minute wait at the bus station. 

This "solution" was hailed as a "campaigning success" by the local MP who had also been lobbying the council. Parents whose children would have to leave home half-an-hour earlier and hang about in the streets outside the school gates for twenty minutes in all weathers felt otherwise and vowed to continue the fight.

The campaign continues...

Obvious Solution

To the Bus Users' Group the real solution was always obvious. The Stagecoach services both run half-hourly and catching the following buses would allow the children to leave home at more or less the same time they do now. The only drawback was that they would arrive at the school a minute or two after the official start of the school day.  Stagecoach made it clear that they were unable to alter the bus times without a major reorganisation of schedules, whilst we were told that altering the start time of the school day or making an exception for these particular children was a non-starter as the school would never agree.

Realpolitik wins the day

However, with the start of term rapidly approaching, a last-minute meeting between the Bus Users Group, the City Councillors leading the campaign and the school authorities reached agreement that the children could use the later buses even though they would technically arrive after the start time. This arrangement will run for a trial period of the first half-term during which Stagecoach will be asked if these two journeys could also be linked and worked by the same vehicle. In the longer run efforts will be made to persuade Stagecoach to alter the timetable so as to allow the children to arrive on time.  The children can now use the service 11 bus at 08.09 from the Marsh and change to service 10 in the bus station, which leaves at 08.28 and also picks up in Common Garden Street five minutes later.  A Young Person's Day Rider ticket at £2.60 will cover the full return journey and can also be used on all Lancaster buses for the rest of the day!

In the afternoon, when the return bus is due to leave only five minutes after the end of the school day the school agreed that a staff member would wait at the bus stop to ensure the bus did not depart without the children on board.

So, after much hard work, a genuine "campaign success" has been achieved by a well-organised local campaign. The Bus Users' Group is pleased to have been able to assist and would be happy to help again in any similar circumstances that may arise in future.