Wednesday, 10 October 2012

City Council needs to resolve school transport issue properly

I have again highlighted the continued poor transport provision for West End pupils who attend St John’s High School and am continuing to campaign to have the City Council recognise the need to provide a mini-bus service as a long-term solution to the problem.

The issue was initially highlighted last year when National Express Dundee withdrew the 4S school bus that took St John’s pupils from the West End to the school and back every school day.    

At the time there was some movement on the situation but the travel to school arrangements for West End pupils attending St John’s remains highly unsatisfactory for many, involved convoluted bus journeys.   It should be remembered that this pupils live in the school catchment area and, particularly in winter, the transport arrangements – or, rather, lack of them - are not satisfactory.

I have been for many months requesting that Dundee City Council makes use of its own significant mini-bus fleet to provide a proper service for St John’s pupils.    The council has this mini-bus resource and, given that the council is beginning to look at vehicle fleet management in a more corporate way, the council has it within its resources to assist pupils in the catchment area.

I recently had feedback on his request for a mini-bus solution from the City Council’s Director of Environment as follows:

“Following the appointment of the new Corporate Fleet Manager in December last year, staff have been focussing on the critical issues to create and ensure the future successful delivery of the corporate fleet function. There are three main areas that have been focussed on:

Staffing - The creation/implementation of a staffing structure and the negotiations with the Trade Unions around harmonising Craft workers terms and conditions.

Physical Changes - The redevelopment of the blacksmith area within the workshop, the moving of the MOT and Taxi Testing station to the Marchbanks workshop and the creation of a new agricultural workshop within Marchbanks.

Fleet Management System - This involves a complete reworking of the workshop systems including stores, job cards, vehicle records and invoicing.

As you can appreciate the tasks listed above are complex and time consuming and must run in tandem with the day to day operations of 3 very busy workshops, with limited resources.

We are fully aware of the issues surrounding the mini bus utilisation within the city and as previously advised, plan to address this matter as one of the first major projects following the newly formed Fleet Section being fully operational.  

We have recently met with colleagues in Perth & Kinross Council, who have fairly recently established a mini-bus pool, to understand how they have achieved this and the lessons learned. As a consequence of this visit it is now proposed to form a "lifed" Mini-bus Working Group and for this to become a sub-project under the Changing for the Future initiative. The group have yet to come together but will be required to develop an implementation plan and to report on progress via the council's Strategic Management Team and the Changing for the Future Board.

I realise this does not deal with your immediate concerns regarding St Johns but hopefully reassures you that this issue is now firmly on the agenda.”

Whilst I am pleased to be reassured that this issue is now firmly on the agenda, the question is how long it will take this proposed Mini-bus Working Group to progress to a point that a service is deliverable for St John’s pupils.    

There is an obvious issue going to spring up with West End pupils come next August.   Harris Academy pupils by then decanted to Rockwell as the Harris rebuilding project starts, will have a pupils’ bus service to take them to their decant building.     St John’s pupils living in exactly the same area and attending a school within a few hundred yards of Rockwell will have no equivalent and there’s a clear concern at the unfairness of such a situation.   Getting a permanent proper minibus service for St John’s pupils who live in the West End is the obvious route forward.