Shows First care for Public Transport (Bad Way)

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Guinness

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FIRST ATTACKED OVER BUS SERVICE CUTS
NICK MCDERMOTT AND ROB PARSONS

12:00 - 06 September 2005
Bus operator First has been accused of deliberately pricing itself out of the market after it pulled the plug on a popular school service because of the extra costs involved in transporting unruly children. The school bus service, which transports children from Ball Green, Norton Green and Norton to Holden Lane High School, in Sneyd Green, was scrapped after First requested a rise in the subsidy fee from £5,320 to £32,000.

First say the service was cut because of the amount of resources they needed to spend to deal with unruly children from the school who used the buses.

But Stoke-on-Trent City Council's Labour leader Mick Salih today accused the bus company of hiking up its prices unreasonably in the hope that the council would reject the offer.

He said: "What they have done is to price themselves out of the market knowing we would say no, their explanation about unruly children is a smokescreen.

"They have said that only a minority are unruly but instead of sorting them out they are going to let the majority suffer."

Paul De Santis, First's commercial director in the Potteries, said the increase in the cost of the subsidy was proportionate to the extra resources they were spending on the service.

He said: "I would say that saying we are more interested in profits than the community is a fairly predictable response from a politician.

"We are more interested in services that are profitable and this was not only not profitable but it was more aggro than it was worth. We have given a commercial price which is not out of step with other services."

Despite the problems, the city council offered to subsidise the bus service until half term and meet First's additional financial demands.

But First said it had to reject the late offer, as it left them with little time to find an appropriate double-decker bus to run the service before the start of term.

A spokesman for the city council said children's behaviour should not be a factor in the price of service.

She said: "Negotiations for the bus service to run until the autumn half term began in June this year, giving First more than two months' notice. We are disappointed at its irresponsible decision to cancel a school service with so little notice for parents."

Parents reacted with dismay to the news that the school bus service was being withdrawn at such short notice.

Norton resident Duncan Walker, whose 12-year-old daughter Amy uses the bus service, said: "The news has come as a total shock. There was no warning, just a letter through our postbox on Saturday."

Susan James, is a member of Norton Residents' Association and has a 12-year-old daughter Charlotte who uses the school bus service.

She said: "I can't believe that they can allow children to walk to school, especially in the winter months."
 
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Lewisham2221

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I'm a bit of a 'fence sitter' with this one. On one hand I can see why they want to put the price up, especially having witnessed school buses before having every window on the top deck smashed. On the other hand, it isn't exactly a regular occurence and the price hike is pretty extreme to say the least.
 
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