- The service aims to provide students with a safe and reliable alternative to the regular public passenger service currently provided.
- This move is a response to the tragic accident of Sept. 25 in Chudleigh, Manchester, which claimed the lives of four Holmwood students.
- Principal of Holmwood, Paul Bailey, welcomed the initiative and expressed gratitude for the support extended to the school.
Holmwood Technical High School, in Manchester, rolled out its community school bus service for students commuting between Mandeville and the Christiana-based institution, today (October).
An initiative of the school’s administration and other community stakeholders, the service, which began from the Manchester Parish Council’s Hargreaves Avenue parking lot in Mandeville, aims to provide students with a safe and reliable alternative to the regular public passenger service currently provided on the route.
This move is a direct response to the tragic accident of September 25 in Chudleigh, Manchester, which claimed the lives of four Holmwood students and injured several others, who were aboard the two public passenger vehicles involved, while on their way to school.
The new arrangement involves the provision of 18 buses, of which contracts have been concluded for 14. These include two which were already in operation from the 2012/13 academic year. The administration is currently finalizing arrangements for the remaining four to be incorporated into the system.
The service will initially operate between Mandeville and Christiana, with arrangements to be made for the establishment of at least two additional hubs, at Cave Valley, St. Ann, and Albert Town, Trelawny, where a significant number of Holmwood’s students reside and commute to school daily.
Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, who visited the school two weeks ago to lend support to the grieving students and teachers, headed the officials on hand to witness Monday’s launch.
Others present included: Manchester’s Custos, Hon. Sally Porteous; Mandeville’s Mayor, Councillor Brenda Ramsay; Managing Director of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), which has been providing temporary service for the Holmwood students between Mandeville and Christiana, Colin Campbell; and Member of Parliament for North East Manchester, where the school is located, Audley Shaw.
They joined representatives of Holmwood’s Board and administration, led by Chairman, Ruel Crawford, and Principal, Paul Bailey, in seeing off the students who turned up to take the buses. Prior to departing, the youngsters were addressed briefly by Rev. Thwaites, Ms. Porteous, Mayor Ramsey, and Mr. Bailey before boarding the first eight buses which began the journey.
Addressing journalists at the Manchester Parish Council’s offices after the launch, Rev. Thwaites had high praise for the stakeholders’ response to the incident, through the service being provided, noting that “the community has responded (decisively) to the tragedy.”
While noting that “the State has participated” in the effort, the Minister emphasized that “it is the community that has led the way.”
Rev. Thwaites commended the JUTC on “their very quick response” to provide the temporary service for the students, “at considerable public subsidy,” following the tragedy on September 25.
“The JUTC is still on the route for a short while longer…to take care of the Christiana High School students coming from Mandeville. I am informed that there will be similar organizational meetings, as took place at Holmwood (to initiate their bus service), this week for Christiana, so that they, too, can have a parallel community school-regulated bus system very shortly,” he said
Rev. Thwaites also thanked bus owners, whom he said “deserve commendation” for the disciplined and professional manner in which they presented themselves to deliver on their commitment. He also noted that the parents “have sacrificed, in many cases, some additional funds to ensure the safe transport of their children.”
The Minister also advised that the transportation subsidy for the students on the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) “is going to be applied very shortly” for the new arrangement.
Insisting on “adherence and use of the new community bus system,” Rev. Thwaites urged the operators to “hold prices, even in difficult times.”
Meanwhile, Principal of Holmwood, Paul Bailey, welcomed the initiative and expressed gratitude for the support extended to the school, describing it as a “win-win” situation for all concerned.
“These buses will be making just one trip in the morning (and one in the afternoon), so there will be absolutely no reason for them (drivers) to be racing to make a second and third trip. It will be safer (for) the students. I ask that you all just continue to support us to ensure that it works,” Mr. Bailey said.