Bus relief for ‘stranded’ pupils in West Norfolk

Exterior view of Marshland High School, West Walton
Exterior view of Marshland High School, West Walton

Dozens of pupils left stranded by a bus company’s decision to withdraw its service will still be able to get to classes following the intervention of county education officials.

Stagecoach announced earlier this year it would be dismantling its services in Norfolk, including local bus routes and school buses.

This created a major problem for parents of around 70 youngsters attending the Marshland High School in West Walton.

They feared their children would be unable to get to school when Stagecoach cease operating the No 46 bus from the end of April.

Private operator Lynx has stepped in to operate the route, but did not have the resources to meet the additional demand for places by school pupils.

And, as the students live outside the school catchment area in nearby Wisbech, neither Norfolk County Council nor Cambridgeshire County Council has an obligation to get them to school.

But, in a letter to parents, headteacher David Hutton said: “I have spoken with Norfolk County Council and have been reassured by their commitment to find a solution to this problem.”

He said progress has been made and, as a result, a bus will run from Wisbech to the school operated by West Norfolk Community Transport (WNCT) and will have seating capacity for 30 children.

This bus will be for students who are eligible for free transport and who have a valid Norfolk County Council pass funded by Cambridgeshire County Council.

A 70-seater coach will operate from Wisbech bus station for other students with the way they pay changing, although the price will remain the same.

Mr Hutton said: “This is a situation which has suddenly arisen and we delayed contacting parents until we could at least see a solution emerging.

“We still have to iron out all the details, but I am now confident that due to the endeavours of Norfolk County Council, we are near to a solution. I will write again after Easter with more details.”

Lynx and WNCT are taking on most of the routes affected by the withdrawal of Stagecoach from most of the borough’s routes later this month.

Last month, WNCT announced plans for a £1 million investment in a new Lynn depot and nine extra buses to help run its extended network.

But the organisation also warned that radical action was needed to solve what managers described as the “routine gridlock” on Lynn’s roads.