A STALYBRIDGE mother is leading a campaign by parents for an additional school bus after children have been left stranded en route to Longdendale High School.
Ruth Bakerson and other parents, who compiled a 150-name petition, have enlisted the help of Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, who is calling on Transport for Greater Manchester to find a solution.
The Belle Vue operated school bus, that first picks up on Ridge Hill, is full by the time it reaches Mottram Old Road where feeder school Stalyhill Primary is located.
Ruth, of Blundering Lane, explained: “Over the last two or three years the number of children from Stalyhill Primary going to Longdendale has risen from around 16 to 36 so there is more demand for bus places.
“The problem is that by the time it reaches Stalyhill Primary it has reached its capacity of 81.
“The bus company says the other option is to use the 236 or 237 public services that are operated by Stagecoach.
“We are not against using a public service, but when they alight they have to cross a road by the Gun Inn that has a four-way split.
“We have asked that the 236 or 237 make a slight diversion to drop children off at the school gates, but the bus company won’t entertain that.”
Ruth added that parents have met several times with the school and TfGM, but failed to find a resolution which is why Mr Reynolds was asked to intervene.
She says the solution would be to have two single decker buses, but that is not going to happen due to finances.
Ruth explained: “TfGM has budget cuts every year and an increase in demand.
“A temporary solution has been suggested and that involves the bus making a second journey, but that would mean some children arriving early and others kept back at school at the end of the day so it is not ideal.”
Mr Reynolds said: “Over autumn, I received several letters from Stalybridge parents whose children had found that due to an unexpected increase in demand, there was no place for them on the regular school bus to Longdendale School.
“I made multiple representations to Transport for Greater Manchester, who replied that the cost of an additional bus would be impossible to meet, and directed children towards the commercial bus service operating on a similar route.
“However, parents told me this service was unreliable, could not get their children to school on time, and that they had fears for their road safety, especially in Hollingworth.
“As a parent and a former resident of busy, blustery Mottram Moor myself, I can absolutely understand why parents are concerned about their 11-year-olds children making their own way from Stalybridge to Hollingworth, especially when daylight is limited.
“I wholly appreciate budgets at both Transport for Greater Manchester and Longendale School are finite and already stretched to the limit, and that the increased need had not been predicted. However, this situation simply cannot go on.
“I convened a meeting with parents, students, the school leadership and representatives from TfGM, to seek to find a compromise that allows all students to get to school safely, reliably and on time.
“All parties made their case reasonably, and I think we are close to a solution, hopefully based on the current school bus performing some of the pickups twice.”
Alison Chew, TfGM’s Interim Head of Bus Services, said: “We work hard to maintain vital transport links between local schools and the communities they serve, spending millions of pounds each year to provide bus services.
“In the case of Longdendale, we provide for a number of different services to support families from a wide geographical area, including Hyde, Dukinfield and Stalybridge.
“While we are confident there is sufficient capacity across the 835 school bus service and commercial bus services – that align to much of the 835 route and serve Longdendale School – to meet demand, we have continued to work closely with the parents’ group in an attempt to address their concerns.
“As such, we are currently looking into the possibility of the 835 operating an additional journey in the morning and another in the evening around the current timetable.”