School bus route cancelled after drop in passengers and ‘cases of vandalism’

VANDALISM: Hams Travel’s pictures of the damage

A BUS route that services passengers in Tunbridge Wells has been cancelled after the vehicle was vandalised by students, costing the operator more than £1,000 in repairs.

Hams Travel announced last week they would be cancelling service 1 from Groombridge to Tonbridge via Hill View School, next month.

A statement on their website said: “Due to a drop in passenger numbers and cases of vandalism to vehicles over the past year, [the 1] will cease operation on the 29th September 2023.

“The service will be offered out to other local operators who may take over.”

The cancellation of the bus service means students who attend Hillview School in Tonbridge will no longer be able to take the direct route to the school.

However, a petition, which has over 100 signatures, has been lodged by a local parent to save the bus route.

The petition said: “Our children need this bus to get to school, they say it’s not used enough which is ridiculous.

“Save our children’s future! So many parents rely on this service, my daughter starts [school] in September and […] the only thing making me worry less was a direct bus.”

Responding to the reaction from parents, Hams Travel posted photographs showing the extent of the vandalism.

The images showed bus seats ripped apart, with the covers and padding missing from the chairs, which Hams Travel claims was caused by students.

In the post, Hams Travel said: “Further to the backlash received after the announcement of cancelling service 1, we would like to make parents aware of some of the damage that occurred whilst running this service during the past academic year.

“Whilst the students were identified on CCTV, and one received a ban from Kent County Council, we had no option but to foot the bill for repairs totalling over £1,000 for the materials, labour and time of vehicles kept off the road, as neither the Council or schools were willing to pay this.

“Student behaviour does contribute towards whether we choose to continue operation of a service… We are unable to afford the risk of any further damage.”

Parents commenting under the post have criticised the bus operator’s statement and the timing of the announcement, with some parents having already purchased their child’s £450 bus pass for next year.

One commenter said: “Dropping passenger numbers didn’t make sense when children stand because there aren’t enough seats.

“Perhaps people may have understood the rationale for suspending the service if Hams had been upfront and stated that damage caused by passengers was in fact the main reason.

“Parents have also raised their concerns that this decision has been made after [they] have paid out £450 for a bus pass.

Hams Travel responded: “We spoke to the school at the time who were unable to pay the bill.

“In regards to the term of ‘backlash’, unfortunately the comments on these posts do not reflect how some people have chosen to speak through emails and private messages.”

Hams Travel has been approached for comment.

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