1. ITV Report

Students walk "dark and dangerous" route in protest of plans to cut school bus

Parents in North Hampshire say their children face a "dark and dangerous" journey to school if bus services are cut.

They're concerned that the proposed three-mile walk between Hook and the Robert May's School in Odiham crosses unlit heathland and a busy A road.

The local authority has a duty to provide home to school transport for pupils who live more than three miles away or under three miles if there's no safe walking route.

Home to school transport currently costs Hampshire County Council £30million a year and the council says cuts need to be made.

It told ITV News Meridian they're considering investing in an all weather route to school that incorporates existing footpaths and looking at ways of improving the crossing point on the A287.

Full statement from Hampshire County Council:

I fully appreciate parents’ concern. All councils have a duty to provide free home to school transport for children over three miles away from school, or if aspects of their route to school are unsafe. Hampshire County Council currently spends £30 million per year on such transport, a significant proportion of its Children’s Services budget. Therefore, the County Council wishes to invest in a route from Hook to Robert Mays to make it as safe, as many other similar routes in Hampshire, and thus reduce the ongoing expenditure on buses.

We are considering options to invest in a walking route that would be usable in all weathers. The route is likely to incorporate existing Rights of Way footpaths on Bartley Heath and continued use of the footbridge north of Junction 5 of the M3 to cross over the motorway. We are also looking at what we can do to improve the crossing point on the A287.

Additionally, consideration is being given to providing a safe cycle route, as well as whether we can support the co-ordination of provision of a bus service, at cost to parents, for an agreed number of years, if it is decided eventually to withdraw the funded service.

When we have finalised proposed options, we will host a public meeting where parents and other residents will be able to view the plans and have an opportunity to give their feedback.”

– Councillor Keith Mans, Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, Hampshire County Council

Juliette Fletcher reports: