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Cambridge sixth form colleges warn hundreds will not reach lessons after Stagecoach bus cuts

Cambridge sixth Form Colleges Long Road and Hills Road have joined forces to condemn Stagecoach's decision to axe 18 bus services which they say will see hundreds of students unable to get to lessons.

Following last week’s announcement that Stagecoach will be cancelling and rerouting 18 bus services services in Cambridgeshire from October 30, the colleges have worked together to measure the expected impact on their students.

Having carried out surveys with students from both Long Road Sixth Form College and Hills Road Sixth Form College, the principals of both say it has become clear the changes to bus routes "would present significant disruption to the education hundreds of young people".

Hills Road Principal Jo Trump.
Hills Road Principal Jo Trump.

In a joint statement, they said many of their students had expressed "grave concerns regarding their ability to continue with their studies".

Following a student survey at Long Road close to 400 students will be affected by these changes and more than 200 students will be unable to get to college at all. A similar survey at Hills Road indicates a comparable level of impact on students and their families who will have to navigate very tough decisions regarding their futures.

The joint statement said: "As educators of 16-19-year-olds, we are keen to impress upon Stagecoach the far-reaching implications of the changes in terms of social mobility and equal access to education in the area. Many young people rely on these bus services for more than transport to and from their education providers; they use them for part-time jobs; broadening their social circles; leisure and exercise and as conduits to explore the world beyond their local areas.

The new bus network map fro Cambridgeshire from Stagecoach East (59530014)
The new bus network map fro Cambridgeshire from Stagecoach East (59530014)

"Huge numbers of sixth form students in Cambridge spend time volunteering and completing work experience placements in the city and travelling these routes enables them to broaden their horizons and enhance their learning with cultural experiences. Travel is a substantial contributing factor in how students perceive their opportunities beyond the present. These cuts present vast obstacles for young people who have already dealt with tremendous adversity through the COVID-19 pandemic and who do not need further stress, worry and uncertainty about their futures. The mental health impact of such changes is a further factor we are hoping Stagecoach will consider before axing these services at the end of October."

Students and their parents have been contacting the colleges with their concerns. One Long Road student said: “I take the bus from Chatteris to St Ives every morning at 6:30am so I am able to get to Long Road for my lessons, without this bus I don’t know how I am going to be able to get to college.”

Stagecoach Bus, St Andrew's St. Picture: Keith Heppell.
Stagecoach Bus, St Andrew's St. Picture: Keith Heppell.

Jack, a year 12 student at Long Road said: "Catching a bus from Cambourne into Cambridge centre and then Cambridge centre to Long Road is difficult already because the buses are always very full in the mornings. This will make the journey even harder and longer, and increase the chances of being late to lessons in the morning.

Adam, a year 13 student said when surveyed: "No public bus transport between Fordham/Soham/Newmarket and Cambridge making it extremely difficult and expensive to get to lessons on time daily. Also, I recently purchased a yearly bus pass at a cost of £629 to use the number 12 bus and won't be able to afford a yearly train ticket if the bus is cancelled. How will I get to school?"

A parent of a Hills Road student commented: “We live on the outskirts of Newmarket. We had purchased a yearly student bus pass at over £620 just before the announcement. Shocked and angry doesn’t even begin to cover our feelings.”

The colleges said in their statement: "We are calling on Stagecoach to review their decision to make such drastic and devastating changes to their services. Until then, we will continue to support Mayor Dr. Nik Johnson and the Combined Authority as they work with other bus operators to find a solution to this crisis."

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