A local authority has criticised a transport provider after school bus contracts were pulled hours before the first day of term for hundreds of children.
At around 7pm on Tuesday, parents in North Lanarkshire received an email advising that Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) were “unable to organise transport on a range of routes for the start of the new session”.
The disruption came ahead of the first day back at school after the summer holidays, causing chaos for dozens of parents who were forced to find alternative ways to get their children to school.
The email from North Lanarkshire Council’s education department apologised, but assured parents that it was “continuing to work to resolve this situation as a matter of urgency”.
The department added: “Many local authorities are experiencing similar circumstances in relation to school transport with much of this due to the lack of available contractors. We will continue to work with SPT to resolve the issue, as well as examining other options as quickly as possible, including contacting all available transport providers.
“For those affected by transport issues for mainstream provision, we are appealing to parents and carers to find suitable alternative means for children and young people to get to and from school.”
SPT blamed the issue on “an unprecedented volume of renewals” for mainstream school transport contracts.
The company was unable to put in alternative arrangements for those affected due to the short notice of contracts being rejected, which is understood to have occurred in the last two to three days.
An SPT spokesperson said: “SPT arranges school contracts for 11 local authorities in the west of Scotland. This year we have seen an unprecedented volume of renewals, given short term contracts were put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“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 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.”
Despite apologies, the local authority slammed the company saying it was “wholly unacceptable”.
A spokesperson for North Lanarkshire Council said: “It is wholly unacceptable that Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, who are responsible for organising the council’s school bus contracts, informed us just hours before the return of schools that they had been unable to organise buses on some routes.
“While SPT has apologised, the most important thing for parents and young people is that transport is available as quickly as possible. We are working with SPT to resolve this and we will continue to update parents via text message, email and on the council website.”