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Snodland: Overcrowded buses cause headache for parents at The Malling School

New pupils starting at The Malling School didn't get an easy ride this week as some found themselves stranded because of an overcrowded bus service.

The 149 Nu-Venture bus between Chatham and Kings Hill is a key route for about 75 children. It stops opposite Midsummer Road and near The Bull just before 8am, arriving at The Malling School in Beech Road 2.5 miles away around 8.20am.

But parents, many from the Snodland area have contacted the Kent Messenger to say since term began on Tuesday (September 6) their children have struggled to get on the bus.

Malling school, East Malling
Malling school, East Malling

Mum-of-three Lisa Head, said she had been forced to drive her daughter Jessica Starkey to school after the 11-year-old was told by a driver she couldn't get on because of overcrowding.

She said: "I am absolutely disgusted with it all. I phoned Kent County Council (KCC) and they told me they can't guarantee a place on the bus, despite paying £270 for a term-time pass.

The Pout Road resident, said: "I have no problem with The Malling School who have been absolutely fantastic."

Lessons begin at 8.45am and it has been suggested children can get the earlier service at 7.35am which is running empty. However, Ms Head said she and other parents were concerned about allowing their children to be unsupervised outside the school gates for about half an hour.

Carl Roberts, The Malling School head teacher
Carl Roberts, The Malling School head teacher

Carl Roberts, head teacher at The Malling School, agreed. He said: "I have made a few suggestions and offered to change how we do things here at school in the hope that KCC and the bus companies can resolve the problem but as yet have not received much joy.

"I am disappointed by the suggestion from Nu-Venture and KCC that a solution would be for our pupil to catch a bus which gets them to school before we even open (we are a PFI school and the terms of our contract state that we cannot use the school before 8am).

"I do not think 11-year-old pupils or those that are vulnerable (we have a special unit for children with special needs) should be left on the street in the middle of winter in a rural area."

Nu Venture, Norman Kemp. Picture by Matthew Walker
Nu Venture, Norman Kemp. Picture by Matthew Walker

Norman Kemp, Nu-Venture's owner, said all bus services serving schools see a big change in the number of children travelling each year.

The 149 route is no different and in addition, the company is limited to using a single deck bus with space for 60 people because of a 7-tonne weight restriction on Halling Bridge. Most double decker buses weigh about 12-tonnes.

Mr Kemp said: "We are aware of this problem and we are trying to come up with a solution."

He later added: "We recognised that there was a potential issue of extra numbers with busy buses on this route at the start of this week and we flagged it up with the relevant officers at both Medway Council and with Kent CC who - as the 'transport authority' - need to be involved in the detail (and funding) of any changes which need to be made arising from a situation like this."

A spokesman for Kent County Council, said: “We were alerted to an issue with capacity on this service on Wednesday (September 7).

“Since then we have been working with the operator and Medway Council to understand the scale of the problem.

“Along with these partners, we are now looking to find a solution which is likely to involve the provision of extra capacity."

Has your child been affected? Email dgazet@thekmgroup.co.uk.

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