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ISSUES RAISED: Rural communities failed by transport

ISSUES RAISED: Rural communities failed by transport

St Leonard's Catholic School, Durham, mentioned in a council meeting discussion about transport, Image: LDRS

Rural communities are being failed by public transport services which are leaving children without a way of getting to school, councillors have said.

Issues raised at a Durham council meeting included the availability of bus services to “ridiculous” transport costs.

Cllr Alison Batey said: “I’m extremely concerned that we’re actually at the moment failing not just our employed people within our rural communities but we’re actually failing our young people, our children.

“I’ve actually got an example this morning where 120 children can’t get to school at the start of the school day because the rural transport has been removed.

“Now it doesn’t take Einstein to work out that means that people aren’t going to be able to get to work.

“It’s a fundamental issue where the grass roots rural transport services aren’t supporting our young people and our businesses,” said the councillor, who represents the Pelton ward.

She added: “What are we going to do to fulfil our obligation as an authority to make sure that rural transport services are actually meeting the needs of our communities for employment and education?”

The concerns were raised at a meeting of Durham County Council’s economy and enterprise overview and scrutiny committee which discussed strategies for creating jobs.

Cllr Batey said: “This is about the economy of County Durham and this is failing our young people. If we don’t get the foundations right from an educational point of view, it’s a waste of time concentrating on the strategic element of it.”

Cllr Angela Sterling, for Delves Lane, said: “I recently had an issue with school transport in my ward.”

She told of a child due to get on a bus from Consett to Tanfield: “The night before his term was due to start the bus service was cancelled.

“The contract had been given to a company in Essex who had withdrawn at the 11th hour, and there was no Plan B in place for that child to get in school, or the children who were on that bus.

“I know issues happen but I’m hearing whispers of this happening across the county. So I think that’s something we really need to look at.”

Cllr Bill Moist, chairing the meeting, said: “I absolutely agree with you. And there’s further complications where, if they go as an example to St Leonard’s, the cost of school transport is ridiculous as well.

“I’m not sure it’s a question for this meeting or this committee but I would certainly support any efforts you would have pursuing that with the relevant members within Durham County Council.

“I think it’s a very very important issue.

“Outside of this meeting, 100% support from every member, I would think.”


Words: Gareth Lightfoot, Local Democracy Reporter

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