YOUNG children in Ebbw Vale will have to walk a round trip of over an hour to school now a temporary bus service has been cancelled, parents have said.
They were told in a letter last Friday a bus from the former Briery Hill Primary School catchment area would stop running after this Friday due to a new footbridge being built connecting the western and eastern valley.
Many children from Briery Hill moved to Ebbw Fawr Learning Community when their old school closed in August last year.
Parents were sent a letter on Friday telling them the bus would be stopping as the new footbridge meant the distance from their home to school was below the minimum distance for free transport under the council’s current policy (1.5 miles for children under eight and two miles for children aged eight to 16).
Parents had previously been told free transport would stop when the bridge was finished, but they said they had expected the bus to carry on until September and would struggle without it.
Geoff Waggett, rector of Ebbw Vale, said: “People are concerned when the weather is bad children are going to arrive absolutely soaked. Some parents have three or four children and they’re picking up little ones from reception at lunchtime – they’re going to be walking back and forth three or four times a day.
“Parents now are faced with the prospect of either walking their children to school or paying themselves for transport. For those who are unemployed this can mean a substantial amount of money each week. They have been quoted £10 per week per child for a taxi.
“Our main concern is the parents have been given so little notice. The bus should have continued until the end of the school year, which would have given them more time to get things in place by the start of the school year.”
Kerry Boulter, 45, from Alexandra Street, said: “I’m lucky for the fact I have a car. For the other people who take small children, because it’s so open you get wet. We don’t get many dry days.”
SA spokeswoman for Blaenau Gwent council said: “The new footbridge will open on Monday, April 28 and parents from Briery Hill have been informed that the temporary free transport will cease. The footbridge provides a safe walking route to school within the distance limit applied by the council for the provision of school transport.”