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Fresh school transport concerns as service axed at 'short notice'

PUBLISHED: 09:22 19 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:22 19 November 2019

School transport changes have proven to be an issue around Stowmarket, Needham Market and nearby villages. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

School transport changes have proven to be an issue around Stowmarket, Needham Market and nearby villages. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

RACHEL EDGE

Concerns have been raised by parents over the axing of a school bus service to Stowmarket, after some were left with just days to organise alternative transport.

Suffolk County Council ceased running the SB465 service - an Ipswich Buses run service sponsored by the council at a rate of £179 a day and running between Willisham and Stowmarket High School via Barking and Needham Market.

Its last day was on November 1, with students instead needing to catch the 464, 88 or 404 services from Needham Market.

But some parents claim they did not find out until days before the changes, and caused a host of issues on other services, including overcrowding and students being left behind.

One parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said a petition of more than 200 names affected had started in Needham Market, and added: "Suffolk County Council sent letters to their funded students but they don't know who catches the services who pay fares on them.

"From the council's point of view they are not worried about those ones because they think that is the parents' issue not the council's.

"But our point is that it is Suffolk County Council's problem because they have taken the route away for all these fare-paying students using it to get to school."

It is understood the issues around overcrowding and students being left behind had eased, but fears remained that the short-notice approach could happen elsewhere.

According to the council, it sent letters out to funded students on October 23, while Stowmarket High School also sent out a separate note in the week before half term, although some parents said they only found out the week before the bus ceased from the drivers themselves.

The council spokeswoman said: "The decision to cease this route was made to ensure efficiency of SCC's bus contracts. The 464 and 465 were only two thirds full so it made sense to move the students onto these other routes.

"All entitled students were allocated to different buses. We are assured by both bus operators that there is sufficient space for fare paying students too."

While the council said it was not about saving money but making the contracts more efficient, the cost to the council for running the SB465 service equated to around £34,000 per year.

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