Bin lorry drivers have been pulled from their usual routes to drive children to school after a transport provider was unable to fulfil school bus contracts for a local authority.
Hours before pupils were due to return to school on Wednesday following the summer break, North Lanarkshire Council contacted parents to say Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) were “unable to organise transport on a range of routes for the start of the new session”.
SPT blamed the issue on “an unprecedented volume of renewals” for mainstream school transport contracts.
The email from the local authority’s education department apologised for the issue, but assured parents that it was “continuing to work to resolve this situation as a matter of urgency”.
However it emerged on Sunday that the council have redeployed bin lorry drivers to help cope with demand to transport children to school.
North Lanarkshire Council added that as a result, blue bin collections will be suspended for three weeks.
Residents have been urged not to put their blue bins out but instead dispose of paper and card in their general waste bin, or take it to a recycling centre.
In a statement, North Lanarkshire Council said: “Residents may be aware that Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) failed to put in place a number of school bus contracts in time for the start of term.
“While work has been carried out to reduce the number of school bus routes affected, many remain unserviced. The council has a legal duty to transport children who are eligible to school.
“To assist SPT, who have sourced some additional buses but have been unable to engage drivers, some of our appropriately trained and qualified drivers will be required to drive buses for school transport.
“While we will seek to engage replacement drivers as quickly as possible, this means that we have taken the difficult decision to suspend collection of blue paper and card bins for the next three weeks, until Monday, September 12.
“During this time, residents are asked not to present their blue bins for collection. Please either dispose of paper and card in your general waste bin or, if possible, take it to a recycling centre.
“We apologise for the inconvenience this temporary suspension of service will cause.”
It said fewer than 180 pupils will be affected by transport issues this week and said it is continuing to work with SPT to resolve the issue.
SPT apologised for the situation.
It said it has seen an unprecedented volume of contract renewals this year, given short-term contracts were put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic.
SPT said: “While we have ensured contracts for the majority of councils on time and ahead of the new school year beginning, a number of bus operators have – at short notice – now declined a number of approved and awarded contracts in North and South Lanarkshire.
“We apologise to all parents, pupils and schools affected. Due to the short notice given by operators, we have not been able to put in place alternative arrangements.
“Our schools’ team is working hard to find transport on a temporary emergency basis for pupils affected.”