The School Bus issue is a key concern for APRA. The presence of numerous extremely large buses in the narrow mediaeval streets of the Cathedral quarter causes damage, danger and frequent traffic chaos that affects us all. It was the Council’s attempt at a solution, to turn Romeland Gardens into a roundabout with a gated bus-stand for the School, that sparked APRA into life.
Terms of Reference
We started with twin objectives:
- In the short term, to stop the Romeland scheme.
- Longer-term, to develop a solution that better balances the needs of the School and community and which keeps buses out of the Cathedral quarter.
As APRA developed a broader resident association remit, the School Bus Working Group (SBWG) was formed to continue the focus on these objectives. It aims to collaborate with other residents’ associations and relevant bodies, including SADC and the School, in order to develop and promote ideas to achieve them. Members of the SBWG include: Holly Black, Gillian Field, John Hedges and Margaret Stone.
We made considerable progress with the first objective in the last six months of 2013. We
encouraged members, residents and businesses to register their concerns; provided the Council with evidence of problems caused by the School buses and, being concerned that our reasonable concerns were being ignored, also asked for the matter to be referred to the Council’s Local Services Scrutiny Committee. In parallel with this, the Safety Audit conducted by Herts County Council concluded that the Romeland scheme was unsafe, essentially because the buses are too large for our narrow streets. Although not formally announced by the Council, it appears the Romeland scheme is no more. So, while we remain vigilant to ensure the scheme is not resurrected, we may reasonably consider our first objective achieved.
APRA’s scrutiny referral resulted in the creation of a new Council task group to look at the more general problems caused by school buses across the district. We sat in on this with our colleagues from the Fishpool Street Residents Association (FSRA) and heard from the School that the present arrangement was the only one possible: since it has a duty of care to deliver students to the School gates and it would axe the service if asked to use other bus-stand locations. The Council stated that it has limited powers, so there is nothing that can be done beyond formalising the Romeland Hill parking bay for bus-stand use, effectively the status quo. Both the School and Council stances were disappointing since the Council’s attempt at a solution had failed did not mean the problem had simply disappeared. So before the task group concluded its deliberations we asked for an opportunity to present a more objective view of the problem and possible solutions.
With great support from APRA and FSRA members on the night we presented compelling evidence that:
- Romeland Hill as a bus stand is unfit for purpose and will increase dangers for all.
- Safer bus-stand locations exist at Westminster Lodge and the Museum Car Park, both within easy walking distance of the School.
- Any additional facilities needed could be funded by the School as part of future planning approvals.
- The Council must continue to act on behalf of residents to provide a solution.
- A bus ban is possible, should it be needed.
We await the final output from the task group and the Scrutiny Committee. We continue to press for an objective assessment of the options and have asked the Council to ensure that a safety audit is carried out on the use of the Romeland Hill parking bay as a bus-stand, that “School Keep Clear” markings are used by the Abbey Gateway to reduce the dangers of School bus and parental parking there, and that the Council produce a “School Bus Good Practice Guide” against which future performance can be accurately gauged.
If the Romeland Hill safety audit is carried out to the same standard as that for the Romeland scheme, it is difficult to see how it can be approved for use as a bus stand – in which case the School will be forced to consider safer locations. However, it would be unwise to assume anything in this long-running saga, so we ask members:
- To continue to provide evidence of any ongoing incident involving School buses, preferably by e-mail with photographs attached
- In due course, to respond fully to the Romeland Hill consultation process.
Thanks for all your support.
You can view APRA news updates about School Bus issues here.