Published: 12:06, 25 August 2020
| Updated: 12:08, 25 August 2020
Coach companies are adding extra buses to the school run from next week.
Roland Eglinton, managing director of Sittingbourne -based Chalkwell Coach Hire, said: “We are going all out to provide enough capacity on our school buses so everyone can travel in safety. The additional buses should free up space."
Under coronavirus advice from the government to make it easier for pupils to go back to lessons, all school buses must be regularly cleaned using disinfectant 'fog'; side and rear-facing seats should be sectioned off; seats near the driver cannot be used unless there is a physical barrier and no standing is allowed.
Where different schools travel together on the same bus they should sit in school groups.
Face-coverings are not mandatory on 'student only' journeys but masks should be worn at all other times on public transport.
Mr Eglinton said school-only buses not available to other passengers are not subject to social distancing so children can share a double seat.
He added: "We will continue to accept Kent Travel Saver, 16+ passes, as well as cash fares with a Swale weekly pass costing just £10. All routes will have contactless payment on at least one bus for those who want to pay by card."
Extra buses and student-only vehicles will be introduced on the following services:
326/327/328 serving Upchurch, Lower Halstow and Newington to Sittingbourne and Medway schools.
321 serving Iwade and Milton Regis to Sittingbourne schools.
344/345 serving Newnham, Doddington, Conyer, Teynham and Bredgar to Sittingbourne schools (additional 8.06am 345 between Lynstead and Teynham High Street and from Stanhope Avenue at 3.49pm.
662 serving Teynham, Doddington and Newnham to Faversham schools (additional bus).
All Sheppey buses from Minster and Sheerness to Sittingbourne schools.
For more details visit www.chalkwell.co.uk .
Similar changes have been introduce by Tim Lambkin who runs Sheppey -based Travelmaster and ferries hundreds of youngsters from the Island to Sittingbourne schools every day on his fleet of coaches.
KCC’s cabinet member for education Richard Long said: “School leaders, teachers and support staff have been working tirelessly, supported by KCC officers, to ensure schools are ready to safely welcome all pupils back to the classroom in September. It is only right we ensure they are able to travel to and from school in safety as well.
“Wherever possible, and providing it can be done safely, we would encourage pupils to walk or cycle to school, with a parent or carer if necessary, as this will free up much-needed space on public transport, while exercise can also be beneficial for both physical and mental health.
“Whichever method of transport a child or young person uses to get to school, we would like to remind all pupils to follow the relevant guidance for their safety and the safety of those around them.
“We appreciate that the ongoing uncertainly that Covid-19 is causing can lead to frustration but we will continue to provide guidance as quickly as we are able to.”
KCC says all public bus services should observe social-distancing guidelines and have seating plans. A number of services have been introduced for pupils-only to free up space.
KCC says it is working with operators to provide extra vehicles on busier services. Face-coverings are needed for all passengers, where possible, and for all transport staff unless separated by a screen.
Applications for the Kent Travel Saver have dropped from 24,000 to 6,100 and from 7,000 to 1,800 for the 16+ Travel Saver. The new Covid-19 arrangements are expected to increase the number of pupils using a car to get to school.
Cabinet member for highways and transport Michael Payne said: "With the uncertainty around going back to school, these numbers are not a surprise, particularly as we have urged parents to consider alternative options to get their children to school."
For more information visit www.kent.gov.uk/backtoschool