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Daily Record
Daily Record
Ryan Carroll

Angry parents blast 'shambles' as Scots school bus routes cut at last minute

Angry parents "in limbo" have hit out at a "shambolic state of affairs" after a Scots council announced a number of school bus routes had been cut for pupils at the last minute.

At 8.30pm the night before students returned, North Lanarkshire Council revealed a total of 43 routes would not be running for a number of primary and secondary schools in the region. As pupils were getting ready to head to their bed, council bosses said in an email that Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) - who organise mainstream contracts - had failed to get drivers for certain routes.

North Lanarkshire Council said they were only informed of the issue late on Tuesday afternoon by SPT and branded it as "wholly unacceptable". Following the news furious parents have hit out at the "ludicrous" timing of the announcement which left them scrambling about trying to find alternative travel for their children at the last minute.

One mum, from Hartwood near Shotts, said if she her child hadn't been fortunate enough to get an offer of a lift from a neighbour, she would have missed her first day in fifth year.

"It's a disgrace that we were left until the night before school to be told with no time to make arrangements," she told the Record.

"We stay in a rural village called Hartwood which is two miles walking distance outside of Shotts and a mile to the next nearest village Allanton - where the buses go.

"We have always relied on school transport, but never more so than now. Whilst my husband and I are drivers, my husband works from 6am to 6pm and I am currently off work after an operation on my arm preventing me from driving.

"I am very lucky that my neighbour was able to offer to take my daughter along with her son and also bring her home, but some have not been so fortunate."

The fuming mum's daughter attends St Aidan's school in Wishaw, around six miles from their home in Hartwood. She has slammed the timing of the announcement, which had her losing sleep worrying about the situation.

She added: "There's no walking path between the villages. If my neighbour hadn't stepped in to help, my daughter would have had to walk over a mile up an overgrown country road.

"It would put her and any other kids' lives in danger to have to walk up this road, to get the normal service bus to get to school - then the same on the way back again.

"I got the email at 8.26pm last night. It just seems absolutely ludicrous that they can send that the evening before school starts back up. It had all the parents in North Lanarkshire Council in a tizzy.

"There was just no warning at all. I couldn't even sleep last night because my mind was just going round, worrying.

"We still don't know if the buses are coming tomorrow. We are still unsure. We haven't had a correcting email from the council to say the buses are there.

"We generally don't know what is going on. We're in limbo - it's a total shambles. I've never heard anything like it."

North Lanarkshire Council slammed SPT for being unable to organise the buses and said it is unlikely all the issues will be resolved this week.

High schools affected include; Airdrie Academy, Braidhurst High, Calderhead High, Caldervale High, Chryston High, Clyde Valley High, Dalziel High, Greenfaulds, Kilsyth Academy, Our Lady's High (both Cumbernauld and Motherwell), St Andrew's High, St Maurice's High, St Aidan's and Taylor High.

Primary schools without routes include; Condorrat, Greengairs, Holy Family, Shawhead, St Andrew's, St David's, St John Paul II, St Patrick's, St Teresa's, St Thomas' and Woodlands.

Another angry mum added: "It is a disgrace. There's not even a service bus from Salsburgh to Shotts so I guess my child won't be able to go to school."

Another mum from Shotts added: "This is completely unacceptable. I'm unable to take my son to school as I don't drive due to my epilepsy. Diabolical to say the least."

A third, from Wishaw, said: "It's absolute disgrace. My daughter has to get two buses to school and then two at the end of the day. It's a joke."

Taxi contractors for additional special needs schools also withdrew their contracts in the 48 hours before schools returned due to a "shortage of drivers".

Another fuming mum, from Bellshill, said: "I was contacted by the council transport team at 7pm to say they hadn't arranged any transport for my daughter with additional support needs. If I can’t take her myself she will have to stay home until they can sort something.

"This comes after I had been in contact with transport for the last seven weeks stating her old taxi driver would jump at the chance to take her again - but they have made absolutely no effort in trying to get in touch to sort something out."

A spokesperson from North Lanarkshire Council said: "It is wholly unacceptable that Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, who are responsible for organising the council's school bus contracts, informed us just hours before the return of schools that they had been unable to organise buses on some routes.

"While SPT has apologised, the most important thing for parents and young people is that transport is available as quickly as possible. We are working with SPT to resolve this and we will continue to update parents via text message, email and on the council website."

An SPT spokesperson said: “SPT arranges school contracts for 11 local authorities in the west of Scotland. This year we have seen an unprecedented volume of renewals, given short term contracts were put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“While we have ensured contracts for the majority of councils on time and ahead of the new school year beginning, a number of bus operators have, at short notice, now declined a number of approved and awarded contracts in North Lanarkshire.

“We apologise to all parents, pupils and schools affected. Due to the short notice given by operators, we have not been able to put in place alternative arrangements. Our schools’ team is working hard to find transport on a temporary emergency basis for pupils affected.”

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