A POPULAR bus which takes children from coastal villages directly to two Morpeth schools has avoided the axe for now – but it has come at a price.
The 438 service, run commercially by Arriva, takes more than 25 children from Lynemouth, Ellington, Cresswell and Linton to Newminster and Chantry Middle Schools on Mitford Road. Some Pegswood children also get the bus.
The company originally sent out a letter saying it would be withdrawn from March 24 as the revenue from fares does not cover the running costs and suggested that pupils get a bus to Ashington, which would drop them off at Morpeth Bus Station.
But parents reacted with great concern and spoke of their fears about the safety of their children if the 438 stopped running, as well as the implications the extra transport times could have on their capability for learning.
A ‘Save our School Bus’ petition has been drawn up and two public meetings have taken place at Lynemouth Resource Centre.
At the most recent one last week, Arriva said it would continue the service until the end of the summer term in July, but only if it could increase all of the single and return fares by £1.25 from March 25 so it can run on a cost-neutral basis.
Those in attendance reluctantly agreed to the change, but they also vented their anger at Northumberland County Council after transport support manager Ian Coe said its policy is that it does not pay for transport for pupils, even on a fare-paying basis, who are not attending their nearest or catchment school. He said this was Bothal Middle School.
Parents including Karl Watson, who has a child starting middle school in September and another in 2014, insisted that they could only choose Chantry or Newminster when they needed to make a selection by last October.
He added: “No one is asking for free transport, but there must be some money available if the council had to provide a bus for our children to go to Bothal. We are still part of the Morpeth area – it says Morpeth on our post.”
Barry and Tracy Nelson, who live in Ellington, said Arriva and the authority should have made public news of the potential withdrawal much sooner to give people more time to try and work out a solution.
Their local county councillor Milburn Douglas said he will look into all the points made at the meetings along with council officers.