Hitchin students let down by bus service

CHILDREN are being forced to walk several miles to school or their parents fork out for expensive taxis, after their school transport was pulled without an alternative solution being found.

Students at Fearnhill and Highfield schools in Letchworth GC, who are commuting from Hitchin, were provided transport by the county council, until the authority stopped doing so this school year.

Private company Cozy’s began operating a service as a replacement, but after realising that it was not commercially viable, had to pull it after one day.

It means parents have been forced to find alternative arrangements to get their children to and from school, with the county council – which used to be responsible for providing transport – refusing to do anything.

Parent Kirsty Turner Cavaye, whose 14-year-old son Harry, has just started his GCSE syllabus at Fearnhill, said no-one seemed prepared to help.

She cannot take Harry to school herself, as she works as a primary school teacher.

“I cannot believe in this age a company can say one thing and the just stop the next,” she told the Comet.

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“It took an hour for six youths to walk into Letchworth to school as there is no pavement for them to walk up the Stotfold Road.

“My son had to then call someone to pick him up when he had finished school.

“I now pay someone to take Harry, but that won’t be forever. I won’t have him walking or cycling along Stotfold Road because it’s too dangerous.

“We weren’t told why the service stopped. Everybody is now having to pay taxis or sharing lifts. It’s not just Harry, but everybody else, too.”

Herts County Council stopped providing school transport in most cases, after changing its policy in a controversial move last year.

As a result, many private companies took over bus routes across Herts.

Cozy’s used to operate the service which the county council subsidised, and Mrs Turner Cavaye said there were no problems when this was the case.

Greg Powell, one of the company’s directors, told the Comet the company could not afford to continue operating the service, but added it was in discussions to operate one which would incorporate Hitchin’s Girls and Boys’ schools.

“We looked to continue running a commercial service, and there just aren’t enough bums on seats to make it viable,” he said.

“The council stopped providing transport, and it’s affecting lots of people.

“Unfortunately a lot of people see it as us because we provide the vehicle.”

A spokesman from the county council said: “We appreciate that Cozy’s decision not to run a bus service to Fearnhill school has been disruptive for some families in the Hitchin area. However this is a commercial decision made by Cozy’s.

“The local authority will of course ensure that all pupils with a statutory entitlement continue to receive free home to school transport whilst also continuing to encourage and support schools, communities and commercial operators to take up the running of additional routes where there may be a demand.”