Chichester school shocked by ‘sudden’ plans to scrap ‘vital’ bus service from Bognor Regis
Plans to scrap a ‘vital’ school bus service has sparked anger among parents and teachers.
In a notice sent out on Friday (February 28), Bishop Luffa informed its pupils’ parents that the 141 Compass Travel bus service from Bognor Regis is no longer ‘economically viable’ and would stop running from Monday, April 20.
In a statement to the Observer, the school said Compass advised, during the half-term break, that it is ‘proposing to increase fares on its 141 route from £5.25 to £8’.
However, Compass said the matter is still under discussion and it has ‘not considered increasing the fare to this level’ as ‘we know this wouldn’t be reasonable’.
Parent Michelle Bernhardt said her daughter, who is about to start her GCSEs, relies on the 141 bus and there is no other alternative.
“We are getting conflicting stories but £8 a day would be astronomical,” she said.
“There’s an awful lot of impact on the children and the environment.
“The route has been run successfully for many years. I really don’t see why it needs to be scrapped with only one term’s notice for lots of children.”
A Bishop Luffa spokesman said: “This is a vital service that is used by 30 of our students each day.
“The bus company has asked the school to fund the difference between the existing cost and the proposed new fare.
“That would mean a bill of £15,000 a year, which we would not be able to pay without reducing staffing at the school.
“We are also concerned that we might then be asked to fund other bus routes.”
Bishop Luffa claimed it was given an ultimatum by the bus company. The spokesman said, unless the school ‘agreed to fund the shortfall’ by the end of February, they would have ‘no option’ but to withdraw the service from Easter.
“We were shocked by the suddenness of the announcement and felt we needed to let parents know what the bus company was proposing as soon as possible,” they added. “The school’s business manager is currently working with Compass and the affected families to find a solution.
“All at Bishop Luffa hope that a compromise can be reached, as the removal of this service will make it impossible for many families to get their children to school.”
A meeting is proposed for parents, the bus company and the school on March 10 at 6pm.
A spokesman for Compass said: “The service is running at a loss as it only carries 18-26 students each day. We have asked the school to subsidise the service and so this matter is in their hands.
“If they refuse to subsidise this bus then we will unfortunately have little option but to withdraw the service as we cannot afford to run a loss making service.”
West Sussex County Council said the bus service is run ‘on a commercial basis’, with ‘no contract or financial support’ from the county council.
A spokesperson said the ‘majority’ of the children concerned have ‘alternative transport available’ on other local bus or rail services.
They added: “Although none of the pupils concerned are entitled to council-backed transport, we will monitor the situation.”