American-style school buses for Hampstead pupils set for go-ahead

SCHOOL run chaos in Camden will be solved once and for all by American-style school buses due to get the go-ahead by borough chiefs. Years of wrangling over traffic chaos will come to an end with Camden Council s new fleet of buses planned to ferry chil

SCHOOL run chaos in Camden will be solved "once and for all" by American-style school buses due to get the go-ahead by borough chiefs.

Years of wrangling over traffic chaos will come to an end with Camden Council's new fleet of buses planned to ferry children to and from school.

Hampstead's Fitzjohn's Avenue is the epicentre of the 9am to 3pm congestion nightmare and residents driven around the bend by the traffic have welcomed the scheme, which could come into force early next year.

Chairman of the Fitzjohn's Avenue Residents Association Farokh Khorooshi said: "We think the school bus idea is the best solution because obviously it is environmentally friendly, safe, it will reduce traffic and it is better for the children because they mix with others.

"Fitzjohn's Avenue is not designed to have thousands of cars upon it every day. There are 13 schools on and around the street which means thousands of people - they can't all travel by car. With 22 children in one bus it takes 21 cars off the road which is great.

"It will solve Fitzjohn's Avenue's school run problems once and for all and if the street is redesigned to slow traffic down all the traffic chaos will be solved."

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Schools have also welcomed the scheme which has broad support from councillors and is likely to be approved without argument.

Headteacher of Fitzjohn's primary Rob Earrey said: "For some families a bus is a really useful way of getting younger children to school safely and making sure they are dropped off safely.

"There are so many schools around here and the school run is such a nightmare that anything that removes cars from the road is a really good thing.

"We have had interest from one parent already. It will make children safer and healthier from less pollution and encourage more people to walk because they feel safer."

And Robyn Allsopp, headteacher of North Bridge House nursery and junior school, added: "I think it is an excellent idea. It will cut down on traffic and is very good for the small children."

The scheme will be run by Camden Council, available to all state and independent schools in the borough and paid for either by parents or by the schools.

The buses are Plaxton Beaver Threes which carry 22 people. They will collect schoolchildren on pre-defined routes and drop them off outside schools.

Cllr Alexis Rowell, who has been campaigning for the scheme, said: "The bus is to get children out of 4X4 school run vehicles and into a more sustainable form of transport. Camden's transport service has been busily working away on the bus plan which is now in its final form and is being discussed by the executive at the moment. A decision is likely to be made this week or next.

"If the executive gives the ok then the buses will kick off at the beginning of the spring term in January. It is a fabulously optimistic scheme and a good project in terms of getting people out of cars and getting something a bit more sustainable and keeping the streets less congested.

"The bus will greatly alleviate the problem of the school run. It is a piece of a jigsaw, a very good piece and I am delighted it is happening."

Arguments over the school run have been raging between parents and residents in Fitzjohn's Avenue for years. Parents previously had permits allowing them to park their cars for 15 minutes to drop off children and fiercely opposed Camden Council's attempts to remove them. Celebrity supporters include Ewan McGregor and Jools Oliver.