Published: 06:00, 31 August 2020
| Updated: 07:35, 31 August 2020
Motorists are being warned to brace themselves for a “plague of cars” on the roads when schools reopen later this week.
Hundreds of extra vehicles are expected to hit the ring-road in Canterbury from Tuesday as parents opt to drive their children to school rather than risk sending them on public transport.
Demand for bus passes has tumbled by 75% as Kent County Council urges youngsters only to travel on buses should no other means be available.
Applications for the cut-price Kent Travel Saver pass have dropped considerably from 24,000 to just 6,100 this year, while figures for the 16+ pass have plummeted from 7,000 to 1,800.
The number of pupils using trains is also forecast to be lower as a result of Covid infection fears - resulting in an abundance of extra car journeys, and heightened chaos outside the school gates.
Canterbury City Council warns it will have traffic wardens on patrol ready to dish out fines to nuisance drivers parking on double yellows.
The authority says it makes “absolutely no apology” for its robust approach and suggests parents allow more time for their school-run journeys.
While commuters have been enjoying a relaxed period during lockdown and the subsequent months, all is set to change.
Cllr Ashley Clark, a member of the council’s Joint Transportation Board, predicts travel times will more than treble.
“We always brace ourselves for more traffic when the kids go back to school, but this time it seems even more problematic,” he said.
“If you want to head into Canterbury, I’d suggest an earlier start to avoid the trouble.
“There are so many children from Herne Bay and Whitstable that go to the city grammar schools, so they will have to be driven there.
“If we had a coastal grammar a lot of this travelling wouldn’t be necessary and pupils could easily cycle or walk to school.
“But as we don’t have one, it means we get a huge and continual plague of vehicles going into Canterbury and clogging up the roads.
"The difference on the roads between term time and holiday time is palpable. It was once said there are three problems with Canterbury - education, education and education.”
With fewer youngsters being ferried to the classroom on buses, the nightmare of parking outside or near to the school gates is due to escalate.
Those taking their children to Simon Langton Girls’ have been told to use New Dover Road park and ride as a drop-off zone, rather than drive onto the school grounds, while parents collecting children from Wincheap Primary School are asked to leave promptly in a bid to reduce congestion.
The city council, which is responsible for dishing fixed penalty notices, says it will not tolerate illegal parking from “lazy” parents.
Spokesman Rob Davies said: “We will continue to take a zero tolerance approach to dangerous parking on school zig zags and yellow lines in order to keep pupils and parents safe.
“The vast majority of parents who do the right thing are incensed by those who park dangerously because they have left it too late or are downright lazy and don’t want to walk too far.
“There may be extra pressure on parking around the school gate, so we would urge parents to walk their children to school, or if this is not possible, to ensure they leave more time for their journey.
“We make absolutely no apology for our robust approach to school parking. If you don’t want to be fined, don’t break the rules. It’s as simple as that.
"We will be at at least one set of school gates every morning and afternoon, with special operations during the term where we visit several on the same day.”
Despite the reduced number of children going on buses, Stagecoach will be restoring its full service from Tuesday.
The firm says it has learned vital experience from operating during lockdown and says all customers can be confident about health and safety on its buses.
Restrictions on passenger capacity, as seen on regular buses, will not apply on dedicated school services.