Students left stranded as Winterbourne Academy bus service axed from September

Photo of a 963 Winterbourne Academy school bus service vehicle stuck in traffic congestion at Great Meadow Roundabout.
Archive image of a service 963 vehicle (then operated by Stagecoach) passing through Bradley Stoke in January 2020.

Students from Bradley Stoke, Stoke Gifford and Patchway who attend Winterbourne Academy have been left stranded after it was announced that the bus service they use to get to and from school has been scrapped.

The term-time-only 963 service from Patchway along with the term-time-only 458 service that runs to the school from Fishponds are both being axed due to a lack of funding.

South Gloucestershire Council has told the school that it is “very unlikely” that the buses will continue as it can no longer afford to subsidise them, while Travelwest’s website confirms that they are being cancelled on 3rd September 2023.

Both are regular public ‘supported services’ that lose money and so are subsidised by the local authority.

Kitchen & Laundry Appliance Care, Bradley Stoke, Bristol.

The council says it recently allocated £352,000 to save five other routes, including three which will continue to serve the school in Winterbourne and “keep communities connected”.

The 458, operated by Stagecoach, runs from Fishponds to the academy via Downend, Frenchay and Bromley Heath, while the 963 from Patchway, which was only taken over by Transpora from Stagecoach in April, stops at Aztec West, Bradley Stoke and Stoke Gifford.

In a letter to parents, Winterbourne  headteacher Jenny Cartwright said the council had told the school that it could no longer pay for the buses.

She wrote:

“I have been told by South Gloucestershire Council that, whilst there is no formal decision on the routes, it is very unlikely indeed that these services will run.”

“There is no additional funding available from South Gloucestershire for these routes, and the council have also reminded me that Weca (West of England Combined Authority) have stated that services will not be reviewed again until April 2024.”

“The ‘late bus’ which takes students home when they stay to clubs or have lessons at other Olympus [Academy] schools and therefore miss the normal bus will continue.”

“This leaves the school site at around 4.30pm.”

“However, spaces on this are limited and we will be reviewing the impact on this bus in September in order to assess if there is a need to change how the bus operates in the future.”

She said that Stagecoach had told her three other of its services to the school – the 427, 459 and 460 – would continue but with different timetables.


The headteacher added:

“The 460 route has been saved by ‘stacking’ it with the other bus routes.”

“This means that the same bus and driver will complete one route and then another.”

“In the [new] timetable, the 459 stacks with the 460 in the morning and the 427 in the afternoon.”

“This will mean that some learners will arrive to school earlier than the school would have been previously open.”

“In order to facilitate this safety for all, we will provide additional staffing to meet the bus and then supervise learners in school until the normal day begins.”

“At the end of the day, there is already staffing and space in school to wait and study safely, and indeed many clubs available for students who have to leave later.”

“Whilst it is good that three of our routes are continuing, I appreciate that the timetable changes and the loss of the 963 and 458 will be concerning to many parents.”

“We will continue to look for improved solutions and to ensure students are safe and well looked after.”

It is the latest set of bus services that have been lost or reduced amid a funding row between Weca and its three constituent councils – South Gloucestershire, Bristol and Bath & North East Somerset – over who should foot the bill to keep them on the road and how much should be deemed too expensive per passenger.

Map showing a bus route.
Map showing route of the 963 bus service between Patchway and Winterbourne Academy. Image courtesy of Mooveit.

A spokesperson for South Gloucestershire Council said:

“Weca is the local transport authority and is responsible for bus services in the region.”

“We became aware that support for a number of local bus services was being withdrawn earlier this year and since then we have been working tirelessly to find alternative ways to fund them, as they play an important role in taking local children to school.”

“We’ve recently committed an additional £352,000 to extend the 622, 84/85, 427, 459 and 460 services to keep communities connected and enable the children that use them to get to school.”

“We considered a variety of factors when allocating the funding available, including the cost of the service, patronage and alternative transport options.”

“Unfortunately, we do not have unlimited resources to fund all the services at risk, and we encourage partners to work with communities and bus operators to find a solution to the issues facing many bus services across the West of England region.”

✍️ Article by Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

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Related story: Parents’ ‘nightmare’ after Winterbourne Academy bus routes axed (BBC News)

Related link: Bus Services in Bradley Stoke (The Journal)

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