Priti Patel MP meets Managing Director of Go East Anglia to discuss Hedingham bus service concerns
Priti Patel, the Member of Parliament for Witham, visited the Hedingham Omnibuses depot in Kelvedon on Wednesday 9th August to meet with Mr Gavin Smith, Managing Director of Go East Anglia, to discuss the concerns constituents have raised in recent weeks about the school bus services provided and to visit the depot.
Priti and Mr Smith discussed the concerns raised by local parents with the 95A service from Tollesbury to Plume Academy and the rise in cost of a school bus pass of over £200 from September. In addition, the 92 bus service timetable, which operates from Birch to Philip Morant school and is contracted by Essex County Council, was also discussed due to the current unsuitable nature of the schedule for the students relying on this service to get to School.
At present, the bus departs Birch at 8am and arrives at the stop for the School at 8:30am, 20 minutes after the start of the school day. In the afternoon, the current schedule has a bus departing at 4pm, an hour and five minutes after the school day ends at 2:55pm.
During their discussions, Priti raised these concerns with Mr Smith and insisted that Hedingham services need to work around their customers and ensure that bus schedules are compatible with the school timetables so that students can utilise the service for travelling to and from school, and pushed for clarification as to why there has been such a significant increase in the cost of school bus passes.
Priti also raised concerns about the speed at which Essex County Council is looking at issues around the timetable for the 92 bus service and the lack of support given to families who are struggling with this increase in cost. As part of this, Priti has written to Cllr Tony Ball, the Cabinet Member for Education Excellence, Lifelong Learning and Employability, regarding the funding the County Council has received as part of the Government’s investment in buses and how this has been invested in local transport.
Through its levelling up agenda, the Government announced £300 million worth of investment to protect bus services into 2025 and keep travel affordable. Of this £300 million, £160 million will be provided to local transport authorities to improve fares, services and infrastructure while £140 million will go directly to operators to help protect essential services across England.
Mr Smith also showed Priti around the depot and introduced her to the drivers who are operating these services.
Following the meeting, Priti said: “I completely understand the concerns parents have about Hedingham buses because of the substantial increase in the cost of bus passes, and the impact this is having on families across my constituency. Some of the families who contacted me are expected to meet a cost of over £2,000 for their children who need to use this bus in order to get to school each day.
“Local authority services should be doing more to ensure that children can afford to travel to school and that their parents are not penalised by which school they choose for their children. Equally, I understand the frustrations parents have about the 92 service timetable because it doesn’t work around the students who rely on this service to travel to Philip Morant school.
“I urge the Managing Director, Mr Gavin Smith and Essex County Council to urgently resolve the issue the timetable poses for students before September and I look forward to engaging further with both Mr Smith and the council on this important issue.”