School bus cuts 'could close down' Hull firm Ellie Rose Travel
A HULL bus operator says up to 50 jobs could be under threat if plans to cut free schools transport go ahead.
Sheila Houghton, who owns Ellie Rose Travel with her son Shane, says the company could fold if it loses its contract with Hull City Council.
The operator, based at Tower House Lane in Saltend, won the Hull City Council contract in April to supply its school buses.
Hull City Council is currently consulting parents and schools on plans to scale back free school transport it is not legally obliged to provide.
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The worst case scenario could see all free transport stopped.
Ellie Rose provides 15 double-decker buses and one single-decker bus to schools in the city.
The company has had to spend more than £150,000 this year bringing its fleet up to standard for school runs.
Now, Mrs Houghton, who has been in the transport business for more than 30 years, fears the company could face serious consequences if all free school transport is cut.
She said: "When the contract came up for retendering, we had to bring our vehicles up to date.
"We do have some other independent contracts but I don't know if we would actually be able to keep going if the worst scenario happened. It could result in us closing down.
"Hull City Council has to do what it has to do.
"But I am concerned for the livelihoods of our staff."
The company has 35 drivers, four fitters and some office staff.
It is school transport orientated, with 85 per cent of its business supplying buses to schools.
Mrs Houghton said: "It is a niche we have got ourselves into over the years. Parents have called and asked us if there is anything we can do.
"What we have picked up on and what most people seem concerned about is, if this happens and the dedicated school buses are taken off, children will be on service buses and will have to travel into town to the interchange, and they are concerned about safety."
The cuts could affect almost 1,000 children who currently travel for free, although the council is not legally obliged to provide the service.
Headteachers and parents have criticised the plans, which could save the authority £366,000.
They say it jeopardises safety and education attainment in the city.
The council has a legal obligation to provide transport to children whose nearest schools are more than three miles away for secondary schools and two miles away for primary schools.
It also has to provide transport for children with special educational needs and low- income families.
However, all other free school transport could face the axe.
Newland School for Girls has started a petition against the planned cuts.
Visit www.change.org/peti tions/hull-city-council-transpo rt-department-save-school- buses-at-newland-school-for- girls to sign.
St Mary's College has also launched a campaign against the cuts.
A dedicated Twitter account has been set up @SMChull