Fuming Lanarkshire parents have slammed council and transport chiefs as 'incompetent' and 'a disgrace' after a wave of school buses were cancelled hours before kids returned to the classroom for the new term.
A number of school bus routes in North Lanarkshire have been axed last minute, as parents were told the day before the first day back. Cuts will affect both primary and secondary pupils in the area, as as Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), who organise mainstream contracts for North Lanarkshire Council, failed to get drivers for 43 routes as reported by the Daily Record.
The council said they were informed of the issue just yesterday afternoon, as kids in the area go back to school today. It is unknown why contracts for all needed bus routes have not been found but taxi contractors for Additional Special Needs schools have also withdrawn their contracts in the last 48 hours due to a "shortage of drivers".
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Other Scottish councils have reported similar difficulties in organising school transport.
A statement from North Lanarkshire Council told parents and guardians: "We have been informed today by SPT, who organise mainstream school transport contracts on our behalf, that they have been unable to organise transport on a range of routes.
"SPT has not informed us specifically why they have been unable to carry out this task and their informing the council of these issues at the last minute is wholly unacceptable.
"SPT has apologised and accepted that this should not have happened. However, certainly on Wednesday August 17, the routes detailed in the table above will not run.
"In addition, a number of taxi contractors for ASN schools have withdrawn from their contracts in the last 48 hours due to a shortage of qualified drivers."
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High schools affected include; Airdrie Academy, Braidhurst High, Calderhead High, Caldervale High, Chryston High, Clyde VCalley 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.
It is not known if the issue will continue past Wednesday.
The statement continued: "SPT has apologised and is committed to working with the council to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.
"Officers from our transport team will contact families affected by ASN provision directly to discuss and explore options.
"For those affected by transport issues for mainstream provision, we are appealing to parents and carers to find suitable alternative means for children and young people to get to and from school.
"We make as much use of our council fleet as possible taking account of available vehicles and drivers. However, the demand for transport far exceeds this capacity.
"We will continue to work with SPT to resolve the issue, as well as examining other options as quickly as possible. This includes contacting all available transport providers to help us.
"We will update as soon as we have any new information, and communicate with parents via group call."
Fuming parents took to the comments section of a council social media post to express their anger.
One wrote: "You have had seven weeks to have communication with SPT and checks should have been done within the seven weeks, don't put all the blame on SPT, if follow ups had been done this wouldn't have happened. Someone's not been doing their job right, but its children that suffer again."
Another parent added: "I assume transport is running isn't acceptable with an ASN child. A total stranger is coming for my child and at who knows what time.
"Change is hard enough for ASN children, even worse when you have no information for them."
A number of parents questioned whether transport would be sorted for the rest of the school week, and have received no response so far. Another simply said that the council 'couldn't even run a bath'.
One woman raged: "Complete incompetence on NLC part, blaming SPT rather than acknowledging you’ve failed to manage your contract provider adequately. If SPT have failed to deliver on a significant contract with no communication to NLC to signal there was a problem in fulfilling demand, then they’re in serious breech of contract.
"So I’m assuming when the tender is due for renewal you're going to have to look at alternatives?
"NLC and SPT have a partnership agreement, and is the responsibility of both parties to deliver the services and needs of its customers. The children and families of North Lanarkshire.
"What percentage of the contract has actually been fulfilled today? Burying your heads in the sand isn’t acceptable, taking no responsibility for such magnitude of failure less so.
"You're a disgrace and whoever responsible should be sacked."
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