Powys parents' fury as children left by roadside in 'disgraceful' school bus changes

Parents say their children's journeys have in some cases increased from a 20 minute trip to nearly an hour and a half

Children are being "treated like animals in transit" and in some cases left waiting at the roadside because of changes to the school bus service in Powys.

Parents say their children's journeys have in some instances gone from a 20 minute trip, to nearly an hour and a half.

Della Morgan, whose daughter takes the bus to Brecon High School, said the situation is "disgraceful" and claimed she only found out about the changes Powys County Council had made to the bus service a day before the new term started.

The council has apologised for the issues but believes the changes are necessary to "reduce the number of vehicles and carbon emissions and unnecessary spend".

Della Morgan's daughter now gets home after school an hour later than she did under the old bus routes.

Ms Morgan said her daughter Libby now has to get the bus to school 40 minutes earlier than previously and arrives back home an hour later in the evening.

She said: "We had confirmation Sunday evening to say that Libby's bus route was being changed. She has to get on the bus 40 minutes earlier at home and is nearly an hour later in the evening.

"It's quite traumatic for her and a long day to be in school and then have to travel night and morning."

Ms Morgan described the new route, which involves swapping to a second vehicle and waiting for periods of 20 minutes on a stationary bus.

"They get on a bus at the high school then wait for 20 minutes sitting on the bus," she explained.

"They then get shipped in the bus to a point where they wait for another school bus. They wait for 20 minutes there, depending on if the bus will wait or drop them off."

The new bus route means children have to swap from vehicle to another, which has reportedly resulted in children waiting by the roadside.

The mother branded the lack of communication on the changes "disgraceful" and questioned how the new travel system is more eco-friendly and helps the council save money.

"We haven't had any written communication to say that this was changing, which is very sad because it's a great new school - we want our children to go," she said.

"They say it's down to trying to save money, down to climate change and trying to save fuel, which it's not because they're accommodating larger buses on different routes.

"I don't see how they're winning in this situation."

She added: "It comes down to child safety and that's a big concern.

"There's a group of children that travel on my daughter's bus that will be left and how do I know their safety is paramount for the council, or is it just to save money?"

Ms Morgan said she does not believe the changes will help the council lower its emissions and tackle climate change.

'Like animals in transit'

Another parent angered by the changes is Verity Jones. Her daughter is in Year 8 and Ms Jones said impact on her child has been "huge".

She described her daughter as a "victim of the latest transport changes" as her 20 minute "stress free" journey to school has rocketed up to an hour and a half.

"When they get picked up from school they have to now get on a Stagecoach bus," she said.

"They sit in the school car park for 20 minutes just to waste time. They then drive up to this little hamlet of Battle in the middle of nowhere, still six miles from home. Then they wait another 15 minutes before proceeding on their journey on a mini bus - which picks them up to take them the rest of the way."

This has had a "huge impact" on the children, claims Ms Jones.

She said: "The important point is children that have extra curricular activities...they can't do these things. My daughter's drum lesson is at half past four, she can't do that anymore. Things like that that [Powys County Council] just doesn't consider.

"It's having a huge impact on the children and it's their futures at the end of the day. If [Powys County Council] wanted to make cuts, why not start by looking at the top instead of punishing those children and essentially treating children like animals in transit."

Both Ms Jones' and Ms Morgans' children rely on the bus to get to Brecon High School.

Conservative County Councillor Iain McIntosh, who represents the Yscir with Honddu Isaf and Llanddew wards in Powys, said he has received numerous messages and emails from frustrated parents.

He said the changes and way it had been communicated to those affected was "unacceptable".

He added: "If they'd at least let parents know well in advance then they could have made adequate arrangements to make sure their children are ready on time and so on."

Cllr McIntosh said he has now written to the County Council Cabinet to ask they revisit the changes to ensure children are not sat on a bus for long periods.

He said: "Clearly, the authority in in utter chaos which has resulted in children being left by the side of the road as their parents weren't informed about different bus times.

"I am very concerned that some children are expected to spend over three hours travelling to school and back every day, and that some will have to wait between buses in uncovered exposed areas."

He also questioned how these alterations help save money as it seems that there are still the same amount of vehicles running.

He said: "On this subject of saving money, by the looks of it from the messages we've been receiving, there'll still be as many buses traveling along these routes. So I can't see how they're going to save any money at the end of the day anyway."

Parents have heavily criticised the council for an apparent lack of communication on the changes.

'This makes financial sense'

Powys Council has apologised for issues experienced in some areas with the new bus routes but said the changes make "financial sense" and are key to helping to tackle the climate emergency.

Cabinet member for a greener Powys, which included the transport portfolio, Cllr Jackie Charlton said: "The series of new or revised routes were introduced this week.

"All pupils using the free home-to-school transport service will continue to have a designated route to and from school.

"Whilst the majority of these changes were implemented without any issues, there have been a number of problems in certain areas, for which we can only apologise.

"Our main concern now is to regularise the service for parents and pupils and apologise to those who have been directly affected.

"It is right that we keep our transport arrangements under constant review.

"Not only does this make financial sense but it is vitally important from a climate emergency perspective that we only operate the routes that we absolutely need to."

Cllr Charlton stressed "for context" that Powys is the largest and most rural authority in Wales and transport 4,500 children to school on 230 school buses using 2,500 pick-up and drop off points.