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Transport / School bus trial proves a success – and will continue

Anderson High School. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

ADDITIONAL capacity trialled on public bus services which provide a link between the South Mainland and the Anderson High School in Lerwick is to be continued until at least 2025.

It comes amid a significant increase in the number of placement requests at the Anderson from parents of pupils in secondary one to four in the South Mainland.

The number of requests is currently 83, compared to 49 in the 2020/21 academic year, and it is set to rise further.

There is only one school in the South Mainland for secondary one to four pupils – Sandwick Junior High – although some children attend the Anderson instead, and there is not an obligation to provide them with school transport.

At a meeting of transport partnership ZetTrans on Thursday lead officer Michael Craigie said: “There seems to be a trend of more pupils choosing the Anderson High School as the school they prefer to go to.”

The cost of continuing the bus trial through to 2025 will cost an additional £21,000.

There had previously been complaints about the arrival time of pupils who used public transport to get to the Anderson from the South Mainland in the morning, with children also being dropped off at the roundabout near Tesco.

There were also complaints about the capacity of the afternoon public bus service heading south. A survey showed there would an average of 13 standing passengers on the service each day.

In order to alleviate pressure on the service, a trial has been running since January to provide extra capacity between Sandwick and Lerwick.

This effectively saw existing dedicated school transport upsized, and changed to a public service from Sandwick onwards.

This meant that S5 and S6 pupils, who are entitled to school transport, shared the bus with S1-S4 children who choose to go to the Anderson.

Things appear to be working: the number of complaints received has dropped significantly, with none received since the introduction of the trial.

Shetland Central councillor Moraig Lyall, who was appointed the new ZetTrans chair at Thursday’s meeting, said the results of the trial “speak for themselves”.