No, don’t click away. I know what you’re thinking. Another rant about community transport, but you’d be wrong. These minibuses are a symptom of a demographic change which few are talking about.
Both of our school services (one bus, one closed door contract) serve Chew Valley school and they also have something else in common – both used to be full sized coaches on routes which are now covered by Solos. Demand in the hugely affluent Chew Valley and Mendip area is plummeting for the local state school, with the school increasingly attracting more students from South Bristol.
The reason for this? Well, passing through the Valley between 7:30 and 8am any schoolday morning will soon illuminate you – the number of private school minibuses has exploded in recent years. Some are well established, such as the minibus which collects students from a central point in Chew Magna before taking them to a catholic school in Bristol. Others are newcomers, capitalising on what has clearly become big business (despite them all being registered as charities).
Wells Cathedral School has littered the Mendips with advertising boards declaring “WCS Bus Route” and their navy blue minibuses are highly conspicuous. This isn’t really surprising considering that the service must be doing considerably more than covering costs of operation at fares of up to £7.50 per day for providing their unregulated transport.
As well as Wells, minibuses head from the Chew Valley in all directions, such as those serving Kingswood School and Prior Park in Bath (up to £9.48 a day) and All Hallows at Cranmore. King Edwards, Royal High and Monkton Combe schools in Bath also provide students with a shuttle service to/from the Bus and Railway stations in the city centre, both of which charge considerable fares (£1.50 single fare at KES, £6 per day at MCS).
It is quite a shame that in an area where public transport is so challenging to provide, these exclusive shuttles add nothing to the offering. If they were to combine resources, i would estimate that most of the costs of providing an all day service would be met.
With all these schools having significant marketing budgets and no societal obligations regarding their intake, it becomes obvious that the traditional local state school is attracting fewer local students to make the short, convenient journey to them in favour of over a dozen hours a week in a Transit van with windows. What a carbon footprint to be making, eh?