East Ruston parents’ anger as children face three-mile walk to Stalham High School

Angry parents are battling with transport chiefs for the second time in two years to secure a safe route to school for their children – after the council withdrew their bus passes.

Norfolk County Council has decided youngsters in East Ruston will no longer receive free bus travel to school in Stalham and can instead walk the three miles to and from class.

But the alternative route via Weaver's Way footpath has been slammed by parents who say it will force their children to cross a fast stretch of road on a blind bend.

Mums and dads successfully protested against similar changes in 2009 and managed to maintain free bus travel on the grounds of safety, as the then alternative footpath suggested by the council via Brumstead Road was deemed too dangerous.

Parents' concerns have deepened with the authority's latest decision as they say the journey along Weaver's Way, a disused railway line which crosses Stepping Stone Lane, is more deadly and labelled it 'an accident waiting to happen'.

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Lucy Usher, a mum-of-three, is among parents in East Ruston angry with the changes, which come into force next month.

She said: 'The council has said it's safe and the children don't need a patrol but I have stood there and cars come whizzing round.

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'And the road serves Bacton gas terminal so you get big lorries going through, and we just think it's very dangerous for the children to have to cross there.

'We think it's more dangerous than our previous crossing. At least then you could see up the road.'

Mrs Usher has called for a review of the route and said parents may organise another protest march, similar to that held in 2009, to try to get the decision overturned.

The 44-year-old from Chapel Road, whose youngest children Harry, nine, and Toby, 14, attend Stalham Junior and Stalham High School, added: 'In Stalham children have three lollipop ladies and it's a 30mph road, and they're expecting ours to cross a 60mph road without anybody helping them.'

If she wanted her children to continue to use the bus she worked out it would cost her nearly �600 a year.

She added: 'That's a lot of money and the galling thing is the bus will still come through the village but the children won't be on it.'

According to guidelines children in East Ruston would not normally receive free transport as the village is within three miles of the school, but the council provided a bus because there was no safe alternative.

Council spokesman John Birchall said Weaver's Way had been independently assessed and found not to be 'exceptionally hazardous'.

He added: 'The county council understands this decision will not be popular with affected parents at East Ruston, but we have to be sure that free transport entitlement is fair and consistent across the whole county.

'Given that this route to school is available, in the current financial climate the county council cannot justify spending public money providing free transport.

'The East Ruston parents are therefore in the same position as the vast majority of parents whose children are not eligible for free transport, and who make their own arrangements to fulfil their responsibility to get their children to and from school,' he added.

The bus will continue to run and free places will still be available for children with parents on low incomes.

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