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Exclusive: Hazlehead Academy bus service back from the chopping block

First Bus will be releasing a more detailed timetable for the new route, 15S, later this week.

Locator of Hazlehead Academy with new sign
The bus service to Hazlehead Academy has been reinstated after a major scare that parents and students would lose it after Easter. Image: Paul Smyth/DC Thomson

First Bus has confirmed that the school bus service to Hazlehead Academy will continue as normal.

Aberdeen City Council had previously announced that the 52 route to Hazlehead from Mannofield would end on April 16th as a result of sweeping budget cuts.

But a spokesman for First Bus said on Wednesday that the route will now continue as a commercial route. It will be operated solely by the company with no need for council funding.

A modified Route 15 will cover the same route as the former bus number 52, which is set to be decommissioned next week. The new route will be marked as 15S to make it clear to the public that it is the school route.

A bit of good news

A spokesman for First Bus said that some changes to the regular 15 route will be able to accommodate the new 52 bus.

“We can confirm that we’ve been able to make adjustments to service 15 that will ensure that journeys to and from Hazlehead Academy continue after the cessation of service 52 on April 16.

“Service 15S will ensure that pupils will still be able to travel to/from the school from that date. A revised timetable for service 15 incorporating the new school journeys will be released shortly.”

Unreliable bus services, Hill of Fare wind turbines and how to save Union Street
First Bus has announced that it will revive the soon-to-be scrapped Number 52 service to Hazlehead Academy under the new name of the 15S. Image: Chris Sumner

Parents and community members were outraged when the city council announced it was cutting the bus service. And soon after, elected members in Holyrood and local community council leaders began piling pressure on the council to try and reverse the decision.

Need to see the full route

Local parent Jacqueline Allan said that she is glad to see the bus service has been saved. It will take away a lot of stress from parents who would have struggled to find alternative transportation to and from school, she said.

Keith Pirie, who has galvanised community opposition to the bus cut, said that Wednesday’s announcement will lift a cloud of uncertainty hanging over parents and students.

Potential walking times and distances for some students after Aberdeen City Council cut buses to Lochside and Hazlehead.  Clarke Cooper/DC Thomson Design

“The thing for us is that kids were going to be seriously damaged without the bus. So at least that threat has gone away. We’re delighted that First Bus are keeping the bus service on”

Still, he wants to see the full timetable proposals before declaring a complete victory. The current 15 route doesn’t fully include the old 52. Mr Pirie said that it will be impossible to determine the impact on the public before the timetable is released.

The First Bus spokesman said that the 15S will provide the same service to and from the school that users of the 52 have enjoyed for years. A full timetable will be released soon.

Relief for parents

Local councillor and Aberdeen Conservative leader Ryan Houghton called the new 15S service a “great outcome” for the parents and children who used the old number 52 bus.

He said that parents at Hazlehead were thrown into uncertainty along with many others in the city after the “catastrophic closures” triggered by the council’s recent budget cuts.

“In this instance, I’m pleased to have secure help from First Bus. There are communities across Aberdeen who are losing out which is why it is imperative that the SNP/Lib Dem council reverse this cruel budget now.”

Yesterday, Stagecoach announced that it would be stepping in to save services to Lochside Academy. Three routes were also due to end after the recent budget cuts.

Scottish Conservative north east MSP Liam Kerr said: “First and Stagecoach deserve credit for stepping in to save the Hazlehead and Lochside Academy bus routes.

“This will be a huge relief to both pupils and parents who were rightly angry by Aberdeen City Council’s appalling and ignorant decision to axe them.

“The announcement will alleviate concerns that some parents would have to reduce work hours or change roles to allow them the time to drive their children to and from school.”

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