A school bus service which brings pupils from Mellor and surrounding areas to Clitheroe Royal Grammar School is set to end in just over a year's time.
The proposal to stop running the 623 service prompted a petition signed by almost 400 people, along with letters of concern from Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans and Blackburn MP Kate Hollern.
However, it has been confirmed as one of ten school bus services likely to come off the roads across Lancashire – because they have not been used by pupils entitled to free transport for the past two years.
But the move is likely to affect other pupils who currently pay for the convenience of travelling on the services. The affected buses will stop running in September 2020, although Lancashire County Council has pledged to work with schools to search for alternative solutions.
Cabinet members approved the changes – which will save £100,000 per year – and committed to annual reviews of all the authority’s school bus routes to monitor whether any other services have fallen under the criteria to be cut due to lack of use by those entitled to free school travel. Twelve months’ notice would be given before any services were withdrawn.
Other buses which have not carried pupils entitled to free transport for two years – but where the income from fares and season tickets exceeds the cost of running them – will continue. Of the two routes which fall into that category across Lancashire, both serve Clitheroe Royal Grammar - the 876 from Longridge and the 775 between Mellor Brook, Langho, The Rydings and the school.
Phillppa Williamson, cabinet member for children and schools said it had been a “difficult decision”, but promised that any opportunities to maintain services would be “fully explored”.
“The proposal allows schools and parents a full academic year before funding is removed and, in that time, it’s intended that council officers will work with schools, bus operators and any interested parties to determine whether arrangements can be made to provide the services at no cost to the county council.
“I will also ask the executive director of education to meet with the schools impacted to assure ourselves that the implementation work [for the change] is as it should be,” County Cllr Williamson added.
Cabinet members were told that the proposals were more likely to affect pupils in rural areas which are more reliant on council-commissioned school transport.
Papers presented to the cabinet meeting acknowledged that the changes could affect the “popularity” of some schools amongst parents if they felt that their child’s journey would be difficult as a result of the absence of a school bus service.
Any pupil entitled by law to free school transport will be unaffected. Transport is provided for pupils under eight years of age whose school is more than two miles away from home and for young people aged eight to sixteen who attend a school more than three miles from their front door.
Some low income families are entitled to transport at the two mile threshold until their child is 16.
Lancashire County Council is currently phasing out an entitlement for free transport for pupils who are travelling further than the statutory distances because they have chosen to attend a faith school.
Almost 90 percent of the 195 respondents to a public consultation on the plan to withdraw the services disagreed with the proposal.
SERVICES TO CEASE FROM SEPTEMBER 2020
S24 Lancaster Meeting House Lane – Central Lancaster High School
605 Holmeswood – Rufford – Tarleton Academy (used as a connection service to Burscough Priory, Bishop Rawstorne Church Of England Academy, St Bede’s Catholic High School)
623 Mellor, Traders Arms – Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
684 Ashton – Lea Endowed Church of England School – St Mary’s Catholic Primary School 699 Penwortham – Brownedge St Mary’s Roman Catholic High School & Sports College – Walton-Le-Dale High School
743 Skelmersdale War Memorial – Lathom High School
860 Blackburn Roe Lee – Clitheroe Royal Grammar School (also serving Bowland High School)
873 Accrington Gloucester Avenue – St Anne’s Roman Catholic Primary School
889 Simonstone – Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
913 Skelmersdale War Memorial – Our Lady Queen Of Peace Catholic High School