School transport service supported in principle, if money available to buy buses

Runnymede Borough Council's most senior committee has voted in favour of the principle of providing a new school transport service run by the Council, to replace the now-finished operation run by First, formerly known as the yellow bus service.

However, the Corporate Management Committee deferred a final decision on the future of the service, pending a financial review which will be carried out in September.

The Committee has now asked staff to review budgets to see if £315,000 can be found to buy new buses needed to operate it. If it can, the service could be launched in January or soon after that.

If funds can be found and the service is approved, time will be needed for vehicles to be purchased, drivers recruited and other essential work carried out. This would include planning routes, arranging online payment systems and timetabling. The service would be integrated into the Council's wider community transport arrangements so the buses could be used most effectively to create value for money for all taxpayers.

During the meeting, it was noted that 180 parents had taken part in two online meetings to have their say so members understood the strength of feeling in the community.

A Council spokesman said: "The Council has to be extra careful with its expenditure following Coronavirus, as there are severe financial pressures on the authority. The proposed new service, should it be approved, can only go ahead on the basis of the council finding appropriate funding."

Councillors have also asked staff to look into whether limited temporary arrangements would be possible, to help pupils who are at risk or a high priority, between the start of term in September and the launch of the new service.

The Council has written to the five secondary schools in the Borough likely to use the service to update them on the situation and asked them to provide data on priority users, as a new service could not begin until January at the earliest.