Published: 12:22, 05 November 2019
| Updated: 13:50, 06 November 2019
Gas repairs near a town centre have disrupted school buses meaning pupils are getting to class late.
Southern Gas Networks is carrying out essential repairs to its network at Beaver Road, Ashford, but the work has led to major peak time congestion, forcing Stagecoach to divert a school bus, with the arrangement expected to continue all week.
Pupils living in Ashford who travel to Homewood School in Tenterden are provided with two buses at 7.43am leaving Park Street, due to the number of pupils travelling to the school.
The buses travel from the town centre to Ashford International Station and Asda, before heading in the direction of Beaver Road and Kingsnorth Road to collect pupils living in South Ashford.
But to ensure some pupils get to school on time, only one bus will follow this route for the duration of the week.
The other bus will start from Kingsnorth Road – skipping the stretch of road that is affected by the gas works to allow it to remain on schedule ensuring that pupils can board it on time further along the route.
Stagecoach spokesman Matthew Maytum said: "There are normally two buses on a school day to cater for all the students along the route. Both buses start from the town centre at the same time so students are used to choosing which bus to get on.
"Last week SGN began emergency gas works on Beaver Road which couldn't have been anticipated. Unfortunately it's causing considerable delays, so in order to get students to school on time we're diverting one of the buses away from the normal route out of town so that it resumes at Kingsnorth Road on schedule."
Problems became apparent yesterday as Homewood pupils arrived late for school on the first day back after the half term holiday. Mum Kirsty McCallum, 36, said her 12-year-old twins were late for school after waiting to catch the No 2 bus to Homewood, which is also being delayed, at Arcon Road in Ashford.
She said: "It's dangerous for kids to be hanging around so long at bus stops and some could just wander off."
Kirsty said she was concerned that the twins' attendance record would be affected and was at first unable to contact Homewood to advise staff of the problem because the switchboard remained closed until 8.30am following the holiday.
The No 2 was around quarter of an hour late arriving in Tenterden yesterday.
Mr Maytum said that Stagecoach was unable to inform Homewood in advance of its decision to divert a bus due to the half term.
He added: "We understand the roadworks will last all this week, so this arrangement will apply until normal traffic flow is restored on Beaver Road."
A spokesman for SGN said: "We’re carrying out essential work to upgrade our gas network in the area. This involves us replacing our old, metal gas mains with new plastic pipe to ensure a continued safe and reliable gas supply.
"We understand there’s no ideal time to carry out the work, but all being well we’re hoping to have completed our work in the road in the week commencing November 11.
"We’d like to thank everyone for their continued patience and understanding as we carry out our essential work."