A National Express subsidiary company is to take over the majority of home-to-school transport services after the collapse of transport charity ATG earlier this year, Birmingham City Council announced this week.
A registered charity, Accessible Transport Group (ATG) ran vital services for people with restricted mobility through two other sub-charities: Ring and Ride and ATG Contract Services, which included school transport and igo buses.
After ATG went into administration in March, igo bus services were allocated out to other operators.
School transport provision
An agreement between the council, Transport for West Midlands and receivers overseeing the company’s administration ensured the school routes continued while a new provider was identified.
Following a decision by the city council’s cabinet on Monday (15th July), the contract for school transport has been awarded to West Midlands Accessible Transport Ltd, who will provide services from September 2019.
Councillor Kate Booth, cabinet member for children’s wellbeing, said: “I’m so pleased that National Express has come on board with us to provide this vital service. It is the largest provision of home to school transport, and the largest guided service, in the country; all through primary and secondary years.
“The service mostly supports those children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who can’t be expected to make their own way to school because of a disability or issues relating to their special educational needs.
“Of the 6,000 children the entire home-to-school service supports, 4,250 are transported using taxis and minibuses, with some of the 600 transport routes having a guided service.
“We’re really pleased with this outcome. National Express is a nationally recognised provider that has a track record of providing a modern and reliable service. We will be working very closely with National Express to ensure the service they operate will provide the best outcomes for our young people.”
The council reassured that parents will be made aware of any changed to the transport provision of individual children over the summer, as is standard practice.
Ring and Ride
Since the administration of ATG in March, Transport for West Midlands has conitnued to fund Ring and Ride – a door to door service with 12,557 registered users who have difficulty using conventional public transport.
National Express is now in final discussions with Transport for West Midlands about taking on the Ring and Ride service.
David Bradford, Managing Director of National Express West Midlands, said: “I’m very happy to be welcoming ATG employees into the National Express family of businesses. We are fully committed to this company – we’ll be investing in the service, including innovative technology for safer journeys, and most importantly, in the people.
“As a proud Living Wage Foundation-accredited employer, we will of course be paying all our new staff the real Living Wage.
“Here in the West Midlands, National Express takes nearly a million passengers every day to work, school, college, to the shops and to see their friends. National Express also already runs many similar services to ATG in America – we will combine this expertise with our deep local knowledge.
“Our focus is always on delivering a safe and reliable service. So we think National Express is a really good fit to build on the great service that’s already being delivered here, and we’re looking forward to getting started.”
Sulinder Singh, regional officer for Unite the union, said: “Unite the union welcomes the decision by National Express, a world-class passenger services operator, to take over these key community services at accessible transport.
“This safeguards the jobs of up to 600 loyal and hardworking employees, bringing security to their families.
“This demonstrates the commitment of all key stakeholders in working together to deliver high-quality jobs and transport services across the West Midlands.”