Green School Runs: ‘Lack of support from Hampstead private schools’ blamed as bus scheme ‘sinks’

A damp Hampstead day saw the launch of the NW3 Green School Runs group's bus service. Picture: Joshu

A damp Hampstead day saw the launch of the NW3 Green School Runs group's bus service. Picture: Joshua Thurston - Credit: Archant

A “lack of support” from some of Hampstead’s private schools is behind the temporary closure of the pioneering NW3 Green School Runs bus service, said campaigners.

With not enough pupils signed up, the volunteer-led scheme - designed to cut the notorious NW3 school run traffic and its associated air pollution - will be stopping service from November 1.

Operator Zeelo has been making a running loss on the buses, running into Hampstead on three different routes each morning, due to a lack of uptake.

But the campaign group, which is in the process of officially incorporating as a charity, has identified a new operator who will serve some of the schools after Christmas.

It has also come out in support of a Healthy School Street (banning rush-hour traffic) in South Hampstead.

Valeria Pensabene, one of the founders of the group now simply known as Green School Runs (GSR), said: "The reality is that the buses' failure was due to lack of support from some of the schools and to be honest we are starting to lose patience.

"Apart from a few, most schools, even those who did provide chaperones for the buses, did not lose any sleep over promoting this service to their parents. Those that didn't even join the effort - with a variety of excuses - actively hampered the creation of a network effect and de facto sank the project."

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The group is now hoping to work with a new provider to provide a scaled-back bus service using 16 seater vehicles in the New Year, while it is also hoping to have successfully incorporated as a charity in the next few weeks.

Valeria told the Ham&High they would be hoping to partner with private businesses to create sponsorship opportunities to help fund the revived buses.

In conversation with this newspaper for today's climate special edition (see p6) Camden's environment chief Cllr Adam Harrison said while he was "not close enough to judge" the willingness of private school headteachers to back attempts to reduce the impact of the Hampstead school run, he was disappointed to hear of its temporary shutdown.

He said: "We really did and do want this scheme to work."

He added the council was looking at other ways of reducing school run traffic.