Tour and Charter's last bus

Two days ago the last Tour & Charter buses ran. This is a local company ruined by the Ministry of Education running national tenders for school bus services and giving the contract to global giant and anti union company, Ritchies (Stagecoach in the UK, not sure of their local names elsewhere). First Wyldes in Runanga closed. The drivers there had great relationships with the young people. They were local men and women and knew the families of the kids. School bus runs are the bread and butter of bus companies here and they can't survive without them.

Why did Tour & Charter get to keep the Cobden run for 2009? They kept it because Ritchies didn't want it. Lots of Cobden high school kids aren't quite far enough away to qualify for free transport and thus have to pay. Cobden is one of the poorest areas in the Grey District and parents aren't running their children to school in late model Four Wheel Drives there. Yet in a climate where it buckets down with rain on regular occasion, catching a bus to school from Cobden was the best way of ensuring children got to school. Tour & Charter always let the kids pay as they went. So you could catch the bus only on wet days or on the days when your relatives or neighbours were unable to help.

Ritchies have none of this. If you need to catch the bus to or from school even one way, one day per week and you are too close to school for funding, then you have to pay $100 per term, up front. I do wonder what the changes in Cobden will mean for school attendance rates in the rainy season (um, that is all year round here). Over on the leafier side of the Grey District, I have a friends whose primary school aged children are 300 metres too close to their school to qualify for free travel. The only way to get to school is to cycle down State Highway 6, alongside thundering milk tankers and huge logging trucks. It's not a goer for even the toughest and bravest of parents. So for my friend with three children at her local primary, she doesn't find $300 per term, she drives them in her car. Government intiatives to reduce carbon emissions my big bottom.

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