North Lanarkshire families plan new school bus protest

Thousands of pupils across North Lanarkshire will be impacted by the reduction in free school transport provision from August 2024
Thousands of pupils across North Lanarkshire will be impacted by the reduction in free school transport provision from August 2024 -Credit:Stuart Vance/Wishaw Press

Families protesting against the withdrawal of school bus transport will be staging another demonstration, this time ahead of the next meeting of North Lanarkshire’s education committee.

North Lanarkshire School Transport Action Group is arranging the event outside the council’s Motherwell headquarters on Tuesday, May 21, at 1.45pm.

It will be their third public protest, following a gathering of pupils and parents from across the authority area at March’s full council assembly, and Bargeddie residents’ three-mile walk to catchment secondaries Coatbridge and St Ambrose high schools to demonstrate their concerns.

Bargeddie residents staged a public meeting last week as part of their campaign, with more than 100 people attending and discussing their concerns including the approval of the A89 Coatbridge Road and a route along the Monkland Canal as acceptable walking routes.

Organiser Marissa Cloughley said: “I find it hard to believe that someone has actually walked that route and found it to be safe. As parents we aren’t willing to accept this and believe we have a right to another review.

“Everyone was very engaged and looking at ways we can continue to fight the bus cuts; the meeting was a powerful testament to our collective frustration and outrage at the council’s disregard for our children’s safety and wellbeing.”

Attendees also noted their concerns about the recent switching-off of the speed camera on the A89, as part of a nationwide programme following a review of safety statistics.

The protest group say their planned demonstration at the Civic Centre aims to “fight back against the cancellation of our children’s buses and make our voices heard – we will not back down until our children’s safety is guaranteed”.

North Lanarkshire is changing eligibility thresholds for the provision of free school transport, from the current qualifying distances of living more than one mile from a pupil’s catchment mainstream primary and two miles from secondary, to the statutory limits of two and three respectively.

The change takes effect this summer for high-school pupils and in August 2025 for primary pupils, with around 3000 youngsters set to be impacted by the end of the current enhanced transport provision.

A council spokesperson said: “Until this year, North Lanarkshire Council has provided free school bus travel at distance levels higher than almost all other councils in Scotland and more than what is required by law.

“School transport costs have increased by 52 per cent since 2021-22 with the current annual cost to transport a single pupil to and from school being £1305, which is an 8.5 per cent rise on last year’s figure, and with total school transport costing the council around £120,000 daily.

“The changes we are introducing were agreed as part of the budget-setting process last year and will move the council to a position adopted by most other local authorities in Scotland, make school travel more cost effective and reliable while also promoting the benefits of active lifestyles within communities.

“A comprehensive programme of safe walking route assessments has been carried out by independent infrastructure specialists over the last six months and information has been provided to families, [and] there is the ability to request a review of individual circumstances.”

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