Commercially run school routes

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Last updated: 19 March 2020

We are working with commercial bus and coach companies to enable them to provide school bus services direct to parents. This work will bring better services for parents, including the ability to extend the range of bus routes with more places and the potential for lower costs on ticket prices.


1. Routes affected and contact information

Routes Supplier Contact
634, 649, 652, 653, 662 Ashwood Travel 01753 899222
638 Chiltern Bus co 07988 212046
BG1, BG2, BHS1, BHS2, CCC1, DCG1, DCH1, DCh2, DCH3, DCH4 Imperial Coaches 020 8574 0028
60, 636, 637, 672, 674 Red Rose 01296 747926
7, 164, 666, 667, 671, 676, 677, 893, 50 55 Redline 01296 426786
627 Vale Travel 01296 484348

Timetables for the new routes are available here


2. What is changing?

What is the difference between commercially run routes and council commissioned bus routes?

Commercially run bus services are services which are registered with the Traffic Commissioner and run by external operators, meaning there is a direct link between the customer and the bus operator. The operator takes over the responsibility for managing the service including bus pass administration and issuing of bus passes.

Why is this changing?

Working with commercial bus operators to provide school bus services means better services for parents both now and in the future, including the ability to extend the range of bus routes with more places and the potential for lower costs on ticket prices.

Will the new commercially-run service be safe for my child?

Safety is of paramount importance and operators’ services must be provided in a way that complies with the very stringent National Legislation that is in place for transport operators. In order to ensure appropriate safeguarding is in place, all operators have committed to ensure suitable arrangements are in place for the safety of the passenger. To ensure compliance we will have officers monitoring the new services from the start date in November.

What will the standard of buses be like?

We expect the buses to be as good as or better than those provided on our commissioned services.

How will I be able to contact the new provider?

There will there be a dedicated email address or phone number for each one. Operator contact information will be included in the letter sent to parents.

If something goes wrong how can I raise a complaint to the operator?

In the first instance please contact the operator who will work with you to resolve the issue. However in the event that you are dissatisfied with the operator’s response please contact the Client Transport Team. We will be regularly monitoring operations to ensure things run smoothly

How will the Council be making sure that commercial providers ensure that all children get a seat on the bus?

We have provided operators with the projected seat requirements to ensure that there will be a seat on the bus for every child. Any specific problems should be reported by parents directly to the bus operator, the child’s school or contact the Client Transport Team.

How can you ensure that these new commercial services will stay running longer-term?

We expect the services to operate long term but this is always dependant on sufficient numbers of passenger using the service for it to be sustainable.

Is there a waiting list for the new services?

Due to data protection we are not able to transfer existing waiting lists as they include personal data. Where possible as part of the transition to the new services, bus operators will ask us to notify you to contact the operator in order that they can develop their own waiting list.


3. Payment arrangements

How much will it cost and what payment methods are available?

The operator will set the ticket price which will be similar or even less than those on our commissioned routes. Most operators will offer the same payment methods as us, for example half termly, termly or annual. Please note that your current pass is still valid until end of December 2019 and you do not need to purchase a new pass immediately.

You will need to purchase your pass for travel from the January term by early December 2019.

See your operator’s website for more information.

Direct debit refunds – If the cost of the bus is cheaper, are we going to refund the difference? And will this be to the new bus company or will we refund them directly?

We will adjust final direct debits to match the costs published by the new supplier. Where there is an overpayment, parents and carers will be refunded the difference. The table below explains how the refund process will work.

Payment type What do I need to do next?

I have paid for half a term (to end October 2019)


The Client Transport Finance Team will write to you to request the final half term payment for the second half of this term. Please contact the bus company by December to buy your pass for the January term onwards.

I have paid for a full term (to December 2019)

Please contact the bus company by December to buy your pass for the January term onwards.

I have paid for an annual bus pass

The Client Transport Finance Team will write to you to confirm the refund due and when you will receive it (this will be before 29 November). Please contact the bus company by December to switch your pass to them and make payment from January to the end of the school year.

I have set up a direct debit

The Client Transport Team will be in touch with you 8th November to confirm if any additional payments are necessary for this term. Please contact the bus company by December to buy your pass for the January term onwards (you will need to set up a new direct debit with the company)

Do I have to purchase a pass again from the new operator directly, before any refund is issued?

Parents will need to contact the bus operator by early December to purchase their bus pass for travel from the January term. The Council will transfer funds for all students who have already paid for travel to the supplier, which means that travel is already valid up until the end of December.

Parents and carers will need to contact the bus operator by early December to purchase their new pass for use from the January term.


4. Bus route, stop and boarding point changes

How can I access my new timetable?

All timetables for the new routes are available here

Contact details are for parents and carers to make purchases of future travel passes. We are working with operators to ensure they update their websites as soon as possible.

Will my bus stop and times stay the same?

The new services are timed to ensure they arrive in good time for the start of the school day. Some bus times may have changed slightly; timetables are being sent to parents and are available on our web site.

What might happen to prices or pick-up times in the future?

All bus operators have committed to a Memorandum of Understanding, which is a written agreement requiring operators to give advance notice of any changes. We do not expect there to be any major changes to services or prices.

Why are you using local bus services as part of your commercial routes?

Where timings and routes are suitable, some students have been placed onto the existing local public bus network. This is in line with our existing practice.

Where a bus route is registered as a local bus service, it will be open to all members of the public; however many of the passengers are secondary-age school children.

Why are some of your routes dedicated school routes only and others are open to members of the public?

We operate a mix of school transport routes; some are dedicated 'closed' school routes where tickets are only available in advance to school age children, usually on a termly or annual basis. The other is an ‘open’ route which is run like a regular public bus, stopping at all bus stops along the route, and open to school age passengers and members of the general public alike. All routes commissioned by us are run as closed routes. Some of the routes being introduced by the commercial operators have been registered as public bus routes.

All suppliers have signed up to our Memorandum of Understanding which requires them to ensure the safeguarding of all children using the service, as well as making sure that significant timetable changes are not introduced mid-term.

The benefits of using these 'open' bus services are that ticket prices are often cheaper for all users of the bus services and the services are more sustainable in the longer-term. Importantly, these services provide additional travel options for the wider community including those who only have access to public transport.

A significant portion of students attending schools affected by this change already travel to and from school on public transport, and often benefit from cheaper fares than those using closed routes.


5. Bus tickets

How will lost/replacement tickets be handled until December? Will the school be able to issue 5 day temporary pass across the board?

Yes the school or the Council can provide a replacement pass if you contact the Client Transport Team

How will lost/ replacement tickets be handled from January 2020?

If your child is entitled to free transport then the Council will provide a replacement pass. Please contact the Client Transport Team.


If you are purchasing a bus pass you will need to contact the bus operator for a replacement pass.


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