STUDENTS’ futures could be jeopardised by the recent axing of the only bus service between Purton and Cirencester as they are forced to reconsider their college options.
From November the number 53, the only service between Purton and Cirencester, which travelled via Cricklade, has stopped at Purton.
Stagecoach says the route beyond the village had become financially unviable.
The Purton and Cricklade Youth Advisory Group, made up partly of Bradon Forest School pupils, immediately took action and, with the backing of Purton Parish Council and Cricklade Town Council, launched a petition demanding the full route be reinstated as a matter of urgency.
With nearly 50 per cent, approximately 100, of Bradon Forest’s year 11 students going on to Cirencester College each year to pursue their sixth form studies, cancelling the route beyond Purton has caused anxiety among them and even forced several to rethink their academic future.
Eleasha Kell, 15, of Purton, said: “It’s making me lean towards a different college because it’s going to be difficult for me to get there. It’s frustrating.”
Gus Gardner, 15, from Purton, said: “Pupils and people in Purton need the service. It’s very isolating for people.
“Older people used the service to get to the doctor’s in Cricklade because it was easier for them than going to Swindon. It ran every hour.
“We launched the petition last month and we are hoping to send it to Stagecoach in two weeks.
“We are hoping to be successful and be able to get a bus to Cricklade every other hour.”
Although a coach provided by the college would be available to pick up students, it would only run twice a day, which means students would be left stranded until the next late afternoon service at 4pm, they said.
Molly Griffin, 16, of West Swindon, said: “It’s affecting our whole lives. It will change people’s entire futures if they are considering which college to choose. It will change the subjects they can do and their careers.
“If people go to Cirencester College on the college coach, which only runs in the morning and comes back at 4pm, depending on the subjects they choose, they may only have classes in the morning and will be left stranded there unless they can drive.
"We can’t rely on our parents to drive us. And there is no cycle access there.”
Pupils became aware of the changes to the service just three weeks before they were due to be implemented. Since they launched the petition before Christmas, they have received overwhelming support from local councillors and residents.
In a letter to Cricklade Town Council in December, Stagecoach West managing director Ian Manning said the firm was recording losses of £100,000 each year on the 53 bus.
“While the route was still continuing to gain patronage, it was not sufficient for us to be able to continue in that format while still occasioning losses in excess of £100k per annum,” he wrote.
“I do not rule out being able to make further attempts to improve bus services in your area once the recession is over.”
So far, 270 signatures have been returned and the group expects to gather nearly 1,000 across Purton and Cricklade. The petition is available at Purton Library, most shops and the parish council offices.