Suffolk New College Rural transport improvements

Last term Suffolk New College announced that the Inclusive Learning department would move to SNC Rural in Otley.

The Otley campus offers a more spacious environment, with a purpose built flat for students to learn practical life skills. Students inducted in the summer term of 2021, visiting in SNC shuttle buses with staff accompanying them.

No shuttle service was offered from September 2021 returning to Ipswich. Norfolk County Council Transport offers several coaches to various locations such as Harwich, Felixstowe and Clacton; but Suffolk County Council has left students to rely on the public service from Ipswich Buses.

The 118 runs only four buses within school hours, leaving fewer options for students on half days or who may have medical issues in the day. It leaves campus at 4.39pm, leaving no further collections until 7pm. The bus is often late, sometimes up to an hour, affecting further travel connections; and ticket charges alter without notice.

With winter approaching, the situation must be resolved immediately.

The influx of students from Ipswich to the Otley campus has led to crowding on the bus, and students abandoned with no other public transport links. SNC addressed the issue by assigning teachers to ensure drivers allowed on students, however, students are now reporting drivers refusing access or passing pick-up points on the outgoing Ipswich-Otley route where no staff are present.

This contravenes the disability awareness training offered to every Ipswich Buses driver, as well as general managers Steve Bryce’s statement to the East Anglian Daily Times that Ipswich Buses would work to ensure no repeat occurrences of students refused service.  

Several of the students refused service are disabled.

Suffolk County Council has a duty to make sure travel arrangements are suitable, and should ‘not cause a child undue stress, strain or difficulty’. This is particularly relevant to disabled young adults, who rely on the bus more than non-disabled adults.

Reducing support for post-16 transport to education limits the options of young people to access further education, and transport problems have been linked to drop-outs and low participation in post-16 education. Public transport promotes independence, helps form social bonds, and reduces environmental impact. Restrictions to it unfairly impact on young people and the disabled, those most likely to experience poverty.

Both bus operators and local authorities should increase support for young people to access public transport.

The unexpected changes to their transport service has upset students, particularly those with autism. Autistic people rely on set schedules with predictable routines, and frequent alterations make them feel socially isolated and can even stop them using public transport altogether.

In order to meet the needs of all students using public transport, we request Suffolk County Council, Ipswich Buses and Suffolk New College Rural work together to:

 

 

  • Increase use of the SNC shuttle buses, and make booking forms accessible to students and parents 

 

  • Consider the potential need and participation of a coach to locations not covered by Norfolk County Council

 

  • Increase either the number of timetabled stops to and from Otley, or else provide a double decker bus instead of a single 

 

  • Ensure that refusals of services on school routes to rural areas become ‘never’ events 

 

  • Ensure staff at Otley are encouraged to pursue sustainable travel with incentives such as reductions on public transport costs, car sharing schemes, and improved access to cycles and motorcycles.

 

1ST NOVEMBER 2021 UPDATE: Some good news - the bus stands have now been covered, protecting students from the elements. Fingers crossed for more improvements soon!


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