Half a term of frustration for Welwyn Hatfield pupils on Arriva buses

PUBLISHED: 12:20 06 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:47 06 November 2018

Dalya Marks, Alba Aviles-Rouger, 11, Ella Peerless, 11, Ciara Norman, 12, Maire-Brid Norman are unhappy with the Arriva bus service on Handside Lane. Picture: DANNY LOO

Dalya Marks, Alba Aviles-Rouger, 11, Ella Peerless, 11, Ciara Norman, 12, Maire-Brid Norman are unhappy with the Arriva bus service on Handside Lane. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2018 Archant

Welwyn Hatfield schoolchildren are being left out in the cold by Arriva’s bus services, say concerned parents, who have turned to Welwyn Hatfield’s MP.

Pupils were left stranded after Arriva sent a minibus instead of a full-size bus. Picture: suppliedPupils were left stranded after Arriva sent a minibus instead of a full-size bus. Picture: supplied

The parents are complaining about sub-par bus services getting their children to and from school - and even MP Grant Shapps is struggling to get a response from Arriva about it.

Buses have been late and cancelled, with one mother counting nine separate occasions of the 7.50am 300 bus from Hopfield being cancelled in a space of 15 days in early September.

Then, according to the mother, between September 18 and 25, the service was cancelled every day.

Since then, according to several parents who have contacted the Welwyn Hatfield Times, the service has barely improved.

Parents are complaining about poor service from Arriva buses for the school run. Picture: suppliedParents are complaining about poor service from Arriva buses for the school run. Picture: supplied

On October 24), the 4.15pm 300 service at Bishop’s Hatfield Girls’ School showed up on time - but it was a minibus. Too small to accommodate all of the school run, it left several pupils - and an elderly woman with a zimmerframe - stranded for another 29 minutes.

Natalie Davis’ three girls are among those affected. “To be sending a minibus the one time it does show up on time - it’s not even a bus that they can get on,” she said.

“One of my girls has a heart condition, and they’re schoolchildren - they’re a vulnerable group and they’re relying on this service.

“There’s always been occasions [of bad service] but this term particularly seems really bad.

MP Grant Shapps has slammed Arriva buses' MP Grant Shapps has slammed Arriva buses' "ludicrous" customer services.

“It’s just very difficult, it’s frustrating.”

Mrs Theo Nickson, head teacher at Bishop’s Hatfield, said she had not noticed significant lateness being reported as a result of the buses.

However, Natalie said: “We have a group of parents who quite often are running around filling in the gaps and getting them there on time.”

Natalie spends £300 every term for three passes for her daughters. “But we’ve had no compensation,” she said.

In a statement at the end of September, a spokesperson for Arriva apologised for the poor service on the 300, saying that a high volume of accidents on nearby motorways had impacted the service, adding: “Whilst we have these challenges with the roads, going forward we are using this data to assist with timetable restructuring to make improvements.”

An additional factor, said the spokesperson, has been operational issues at the depot “that we are working hard to resolve”.

The Welwyn Hatfield Times has had no response from Arriva after the paper enquired about the fact that the problem has continued into the winter.

Frustrated parents have turned to Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps for help, who wrote to the company in August asking for an explanation for the service. But he only got an answer when he wrote directly to the managing director on September 17 to chase for a response.

He finally got a reply in mid-October. “Although it addressed some of the issues raised in my original correspondence to them ... it did not fully address the underlying performance issues,” he told the Welwyn Hatfield Times.

“I am presently awaiting a more substantive response about what they are doing to immediately rectify that.

“If that response again does not come in a reasonable period, or it outlines many of the frankly ludicrous excuses given by the company to the locals who have complained themselves, I will not hesitate to escalate this again to the company chief executive.”

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