Bus service cuts feared to have ‘catastrophic’ consequences for Suffolk school pupils

Pupils attending Hartismere School in Eye use the bus service. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Pupils attending Hartismere School in Eye use the bus service. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Parents and teachers at a Suffolk school have raised concerns about the cancellation of a bus service used by pupils – and wider issues of proposed cuts to student transport funding.

Lee Dowthwaite, whose children attend Hartismere School in Eye, said the imminent closure of the 456 service was “potentially catastrophic” for pupils who rely on the service. “The worst part of this is that neither the parents, the pupils or even the school were made aware of the decision,” he added. “Given the extremely short notice, and the fact that the route will be cut during our son’s mock GCSE term – and for other pupils, their actual GCSE term – we really do not know what to do.

“As working parents, we are very worried and we have no idea how we are going to get our children home from school.”

Mr Dowthwaite said he first learned of the closure when his 12-year-old daughter saw a note pinned to the bus stop, stating the service would end in late May.

He sought answers from Suffolk County Council (SCC) and Galloway Travel, which provides the service, and claims to have received mixed messages about whose decision it was.

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Hartismere’s assistant headteacher Geoff Luxton said he was “deeply concerned”.

Although the 456 is a regular service, operating between Diss and Stowmarket, Mr Luxton said SCC had agreed for a number of years for it to be used for pupil transport. He said some, but not all, pupils had been offered alternative school transport and Hartismere was researching ways to help the remaining students.

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“This news, in tandem with the school transport consultation by SCC appears to severely limit the future schooling choices open to Suffolk parents,” he added,

An SCC spokesman said Galloway Travel had taken the decision to end the 456 route, alongside the 459. He said the council had notified councillors and the school to give notice. The spokesman said another route would be extended to provide transport for the rest of term.

“We know how important bus services are for Suffolk residents, particularly in rural locations, therefore where there isn’t a bus route in place, the Connecting Communities service is available,” he added.

Galloway confirmed it will stop the 456 and 459 after Saturday May 26. “The company has no further comment to make at this time,” a spokesman added.

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