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Pupils endure 90-minute 'commute' to get to school in Canterbury

Pupils are enduring a nightmare 90-minute journey home from school - despite living just a 15-minute drive away.

The final bell rings at St Anselm’s in Old Dover Road, Canterbury, at 3.30pm, but youngsters travelling to Aylesham are lucky to reach their front door before 5pm.

Furious parents say the arduous journey - which takes longer than the commute to London by train - is caused by an inadequate bus service.

Gary Edwards and fellow campaigners who want changes to the school bus service serving Aylesham. Picture: Chris Davey (2515877)
Gary Edwards and fellow campaigners who want changes to the school bus service serving Aylesham. Picture: Chris Davey (2515877)

Currently, pupils are forced to catch the 89 service from the school to the city bus station - travelling in the opposite direction from where they live - in the hope of jumping on the 89b back to Aylesham village at 4.10pm.

But fearing they may miss the 89b because of rush-hour traffic along Old Dover Road, many choose to walk the mile-and-a-half into the city centre.

If they are lucky to catch the bus, they still end up going back past their school on the way to Aylesham almost an hour after lessons finished.

Gary Edwards, whose 12-year-old daughter Brooke attends St Anselm’s, has been campaigning for two years for Stagecoach to offer a direct bus home from the school for pupils heading to Aylesham.

“So far, I have been to Stagecoach, Bus Users UK and the MP’s office regarding this matter without much success,” he said.

“There is growing anger within the village at how the kids are being treated and the whole Stagecoach service in general.

“Parents pay a lot of money for this service and I really think the kids are getting a raw deal.”

Mr Edwards says a possible solution lies in a timetabled Stagecoach service to Aylesham which stops in New Dover Road at 3.37pm.

But he says the bus is too small to carry all the children and the junction where it stops would be hazardous if large groups of children congregated there.

“The whole situation seems ridiculous and really needs investigating" - Gary Edwards

“I have requested that this bus becomes a double decker and that it pulls into the park and ride site to collect the kids and then carries onto Aylesham and the surrounding villages,” he said. “It would take a few minutes to do this.

“If the kids were able to get that bus, they would be home at least one hour earlier.

“The whole situation seems ridiculous and really needs investigating.

“Aylesham is growing, with over 1,000 new homes going up, and I expect this issue to get worse if Stagecoach does not take action.

“I am requesting that someone takes the time to look at this and that common sense is used in order to give these kids a better quality of life.”

When contacted, Stagecoach said the 3.37pm service from New Dover Road would shortly be substituted to a double decker bus.

Spokesman Matthew Maytum added: “We will also look at rerouting this bus via the St Anselm’s school bus lay-by from September.

“We cannot action changes to a bus route and timetable without first providing statutory notice to the local authority and regional Transport Commissioner.”

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