Midlothian kids face no buses in time for start of school

Thousands of Midlothian children still don't know if they'll have a bus to school next term.
Thousands of Midlothian children still don't know if they'll have a bus to school next term.
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THOUSANDS of Midlothian children are in limbo on how to get to school with bus contracts still to be confirmed eight days before the new term starts.

A coach firm is taking the council to court after missing out on the final round of £6 million deals to bus pupils to school in a move that has held up the issuing of new contracts.

Education chiefs have said buses will be laid on from the first day back on August 20. But bus firms are understood to be livid at being expected to operate on terms that are five years old.

Bonnyrigg and Lasswade Community Council chair Marnie Crawford said: “It needs to be sorted out fast if they haven’t got contracts or arrangements in place because children clearly need to get to school.”

The dispute dates back to May and has rumbled on all summer over the dishing out of seven-year contracts to 16 bus firms.

On Tuesday, council bosses were issued with a legal challenge and wrote to bus firms the next day to inform them of their intention to run existing contracts until December.

But transport company bosses are understood to be outraged at having to lay on vehicles and drivers on terms from five years ago that do not take inflation into account.

Mrs Crawford said: “On the one hand, Midlothian Council should be applauded for looking for value for money on contracts, but at the same time they need to get the school buses sorted out.

“They need to give parents some certainty because obviously parents can’t just move timetables about. Most of them work and have other commitments, so can’t just set off on school runs at short notice.”

Lasswade High School Parent Council chair Lindsey McGregor said: “It’s very concerning to learn that so close to the schools returning the bus contract has not been finalised.

“Parents and carers are expecting to learn next week if their child has a place on the bus and will be very worried to learn that there may be no buses.”

The council lays on buses for 2,000 pupils every day to six secondaries and 32 primaries, mainly for young children with specific needs.

Part of a Scottish Government initiative, parents can apply for free transport for under-eights living two miles from school and three miles if older.

Low-income families can also apply, as can children with disabilities or mobility problems, for those who cannot attend a local school or where walking or cycling is unsafe.

A Midlothian Council spokesman said: “A court summons was served on Tuesday, August 7, 2018.

“Midlothian Council is working to solve the issue.

“However, we can assure parents that transport will be in place for those children entitled to it at the start of the new term and onwards.”