Birmingham City Council has announced a majority of its home-to-school transport service will be moved to a new provider after the Accessible Transport Group (ATG) went into administration earlier this year.
The contract has been formally awarded to West Midlands Accessible Transport Ltd, a subsidiary of National Express following a decision by the city council’s cabinet on Monday (15/07). The new contract will begin in September.
In March the provider for minibuses to Birmingham special schools ATG went into administration. The council and Transport for West Midlands stepped in to ensure the service continued to run without major disruption.
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.”
Any changes to an individual child’s transport provision – as happens for every new school year – will be provided to parents over the summer as is standard practice.
ATG also operated the door-to-door Ring and Ride service which has 12,557 registered users across the region. The service is aimed at people, often disabled or elderly, who have difficulty using conventional public transport. Transport for West Midlands has continued to fund the service and successfully worked with the administrators to keep it on the road.
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.”