Bus cancellations to continue
Parents warned yesterday that continued disruption to bus services will affect families as children prepared to go back to school.
Lindsey Kipps from Warwick, said her eight-year-old son caught the bus to Purvis Primary School in the parish.
She explained: “We would have to drive west from where we live before going east all the way to Devonshire to drop off our little one.”
Ms Kipps said: “The majority of people have to come to work in town, so even if I was to rely on my family, they live in Somerset. So what are they going to do? Leave Somerset at seven o’clock to take my child to school, and then be late to work themselves? That doesn’t make any sense.
“His bus is literally full of Purvis students every morning, so he will not be the only one who is negatively affected by this.”
She was speaking after the Government admitted cancellations will probably continue into the new school year.
The Department of Public Transportation advised parents and pupils yesterday to consider alternative transport when the term begins in early September.
A spokeswoman for the department added that officials were searching for an “interim solution” to ensure children can get to school.
Tanya Cheeseman, a St George’s resident with two children at the Berkeley Institute in Pembroke, said she feared the consequences on her children’s education.
She added: “Kids are just going to have to turn around and go back home when their bus doesn’t show up.
“They’re going to miss school if they have no way of getting there or they’re going to get to school late and be penalised for something that they can’t control.”
Ms Cheeseman’s son, Jayden, 15, is going into his second year at Berkeley, while Kiara, 13, will be starting her first year.
She said: “My children use the bus every day, to go to school and to get home.
“There are going to be consequences to their education, especially if they miss a period at school or a test.”
Schools have been hit by increasing numbers of bus cancellations as the island fleet’s deterioration has hit crisis point.
Government introduced a minibus service at an expected cost to taxpayers of up to $630,000 in 2017 to help cope, but that came to an end this January.
A DPT spokeswoman said: “Parents and students are encouraged to consider utilising the commuter ferry service and co-ordinate rides with family and friends.
“The Department is seeking to implement an interim solution that will assist commuters and, in particular, school students in reaching their destinations.
“At the same time, DPT continues to work towards having an entirely new bus schedule in place which will rely on fewer buses and in doing so facilitate a more reliable service.”
She added: “The DPT regrets the inconvenience caused by scheduling changes and remains committed to providing a quality, reliable public bus service.”
The spokeswoman said Government is taking steps to limit the impact on students, including prioritising school bus routes once the academic year begins.
She said: “The dispatchers and bus operators will co-ordinate to collect students, adjusting bus movements in an effort to ensure that students are able to reach school.
“CedarBridge Academy and the Berkeley Institute will have daily dedicated buses for departure at the end of the school day.”
The spokeswoman added a liaison officer will be made available to assist schools with transportation-related issues and the ministry is in communication with stakeholder groups including the Bermuda Union of Teachers and the Bermuda Industrial Union.
She continued: “MAN Technicians — the manufacturer of most of our existing fleet — have been on island, working alongside our Bermudian technicians to repair out-of-service buses.
“Since taking office last year, the Government ended the staff hiring freeze that saw our DPT workers overworked, under-resourced and that had a direct negative result on our public transportation system over the last five years.
“The Government purchased four new buses with an additional eight buses arriving in 2019.
“Furthermore, up to $10 million dollars will be invested over the next two years to ensure that our workers have the support and resources they need to keep our buses moving.”
Michael Fahy, a former One Bermuda Alliance transport minister, has claimed a standoff over schedules has contributed to bus cancellations.
But Chris Furbert, president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, argued that 90 per cent of the problem was down to an ageing fleet. David Burt, the Premier, pledged $3 million to help buy eight new buses in February’s Budget.
At least two new buses have hit the road since then.