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Parents’ anger as Whitwell-on-the-Hill school bus is axed
A GROUP of parents say their children will be forced to walk an ‘horrendous and unsafe’ route to school after their school bus service was withdrawn.
The families, who live in Whitwell-on-the-Hill, were told earlier this year that the service, which takes children to and from Welburn Primary School, would cease from September after an assessment of the route.
Despite an appeal to North Yorkshire County Council, parents have been told that because the village is within two miles of the school, they are responsible for transport arrangements and the route is considered to be safe to walk if the children are accompanied.
Michelle Bertucci, who has a child at Welburn Primary School, said the bus had taken the same route round the local villages, including Huttons Ambo, Crambeck and Whitwell to Welburn, for as long as most people could remember.
“We have been told that because it is just under two miles from the village to school our children now have to walk,” she said.
“The route is dreadful – very uneven and muddy and takes an adult 40-45 minutes to walk, so with a young child this will take a least an hour.”
Mrs Bertucci said the track had no street lighting and was often knee-deep in water.
“There are no public buses so what are we supposed to do during bad weather. There is no alternative but to take this route which everyone considers unsafe,” she said.
“The crazy thing is that they aren’t saving any money as the bus is still driving past the village and they have actually asked the Highways Agency to maintain the grass verges and put in drainage which is going to cost thousands of pounds.”
Fellow parent, Kath Heron, whose nine-year-old daughter attends Welburn Primary School, said she was ‘stunned’ that the bus service was to cease.
“I cannot understand what they are saving. It is dangerous to expect us to walk this route which is often flooded,” she said.
“It isn’t possible to get a mobile phone signal, so if there was an accident, we would have to walk back to the village to get help. This just hasn’t been thought out at all.”
Mrs Heron said they were now considering taking the matter to the Ombudsman and starting a petition against the council’s decision.
“Someone came to access the route but they drove along most of it and videoed it from the car. How do they expect five-year-olds to walk along a route where there are no proper paths,” she said.
“Even horse riders have said the route is impossible to use in winter but we have been told to take a torch and wear wellies.”
A spokesman for North Yorkshire County Council said an assessment of the route had been conducted by an officer from the council’s road safety team.
“In line with nationally laid-down criteria, it was found to be safe for a child to walk, accompanied as necessary. Letters were sent to parents on February 27 to advise them of this, and to advise that as a result the current permits for a school bus will be withdrawn at the end of the summer term.”
The spokesman said that three families who live in Whitwell and whose children attend Welburn Primary, appealed against this decision.
“Appeal hearings were held on July 8, and the Appeal Committee did not uphold the parents’ applications. The committee decided the route is safe to walk accompanied as necessary, and that there were no exceptional circumstances to justify transport,” he said.
“The county council’s policy is that parents of pupils who live within two miles of the school their children attend are responsible for transport arrangements and costs, provided the route is assessed as safe.”