Many residents in Medway who use busses are genuinely unhappy at present. We have a bus provider who is not held to account, poor bus routes, irregular services, old busses and a lack of coherent joined-up thinking behind public transport. We have pupils and parents paying huge sums of money to get their children to school and college.
The ongoing saga of Chatham's new bus station has raised the issue of comptence on busses. The public know that the administration has rushed through the proposal at the last possible moment to secure the funding. We now have a multimillion pound capital project approved which will bulldoze over the Paddock, despite opposition from local historical societies and independent campaigner
Meanwhile no commetary on the existing facility in the Pentagon and the management of this site by the Medway Conservative administration which has overseen a period of multiple ownership with little accountability.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have been challenging the Tories on current poor public transport infrastructure in Medway. In addition, Labour and Liberal Democrats have been calling for an increase in subsidy for students and pupils of hard working parents, who are struggling to find the money to pay for bus travel. The opposition parties have highlighted the millions spent on CCTV cars and the Chatham road redevelopment which no one has voted for.
Indeed, it is a matter of priorities.
That is why the Yellow Bus Scheme deserves to be investigated, not only because it flies in the face of financial good practice but it also highlights the skewed approach to funding priorities.
Whilst not objecting to any principle of the Yellow Busses scheme. It is surely questionable that any competent administration should spend £300,000 subsidising the travel of a few hundred children going to schools in a very small geographical area of the towns. This while the largest majority of pupils get no benefit, including those in the entire Rochester & Strood constituency, who get no benefit at all from the Yellow Busses. Merely a half-price subsidy on very specific services with only a £60,000 budget.
The Yellow Bus Scheme is a service operated by Medway Council in association with various bus companies, including Nu-Venture and Manns Travel. It is aimed at encouraging children and young people to use the bus to travel to school and relieves their parent or carer of the inconvenience of arranging daily transport for their child.
The buses serve schools in different areas across Medway [ actually only Lordswood, Hempstead, Rainham and Gillingham ] , including:
* two buses from Lordswood running to Greenacre School, Walderslade Girls School, Chatham Grammar School for Boys and Chatham South School;
* one bus from the Gillingham area to Rainham Mark Grammar School, Rainham School for Girls and The Howard School;
* one bus from Hempstead to Chatham Grammar School for Girls;
* three buses from Hempstead, Wigmore and Parkwood to Rainham Mark Grammar School.
The principles behind the scheme are sound. Yet what it highlights is that unless your child is fortunate to get the above, you will have to seek alternative forms of transport. Transport which will cost you and your child heavily.
So yes, if you live in Strood, Rochester, Cuxton, Halling. Hoo, Frindsbury, Horsted, Borstal or indeed anywhere but the above listed in bold... you get no benefit at all from the Yellow Bus scheme.
This case shows the competence of an administration which is not using resources effectively or indeed fairly. The majority of parents get no benefit.
If the Yellow Bus Scheme is to continue it should be extended to all areas and not just a select few. Otherwise, quite rightly, the argument is open to challenge. It is not fair that whilst this student bus scheme gets £300,000 of funding the rest of Medway only gets £60,000 subsidy. It is double standards.
Alternatively, introducing the Freedom Pass or free bus travel would negate the requirement for seperate school busses with any cost to the parent. Now that would be a progressive solution.
This Conservative administration is not firing on all cylinders, its wheels are flat, its engine is poorly oiled and its insides are decayed and dated. We have an administration with no firm direction and a poor driver. It is sad therefore that it is parents and pupils in the majority of Medway which are paying to subsidise the few.