Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, cut the ribbon on the constituency’s newest college bus service, surrounded by the young folk of Alston Moor who are set to benefit from the initiative that Dr Hudson has led the fight to secure.
Having repeatedly raised the plight of Alston’s young people in Parliament, Dr Hudson welcomed the new bus route taking children from the Moor to New College Durham.
Taking its first passengers this term, the Weardale Travel service, is giving 16–18-year-olds from Alston Moor their first and only service dedicated to accessing training and education. Dr Hudson has worked with Headteacher Gill Jackson and Eden District Council, who have agreed to earmark the funding, to make this initiative a reality.
Part of Dr Hudson’s campaign to make post-16 education accessible for all, he launched a petition asking local councils and Government to work together towards a solution for our rural young people. With more than 1,000 signatures, the Alston bus is a real win for local people who have made their voices heard. To continue the campaign for fair post-16 transport you can sign the petition here: www.neilhudson.org.uk/campaigns/neil-hudsons-petition-fair-post-16-transport-all
One youngster benefitting from the new bus is Hannah, who completed Year 11 at Samuel King's School in Alston. Before the service was announced she was looking at going to college in Carlisle because it is closer to Alston Moor, however admitted she would have been unable to get there every day due to a lack of transport. Furthermore, the course she wanted to do – Electrical Installation – was not available.
However, now she is signed up to the qualification with New College Durham, Hannah is one step closer to her ambition of becoming an electrician.
Hannah said: “It’s a good opportunity for everyone around here because we don’t really have transport to anywhere else. I’m glad because I can do the course I actually want to do now.”
Her classmate, Emma, was faced with a similar conundrum. She added: “I’ve always wanted to do A Levels, but before the new bus I only had one choice and that was only if there was a place on the [existing] bus so I wasn’t guaranteed to get there anyway. So now that the bus is running, I’m guaranteed a place. It’s great."
After Emma finishes her A Levels, she plans to go to university to study English, something made far easier now she’s not limited by a lack of available transport.
Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, said: “It was an absolute privilege being able to cut the ribbon and launch what will be a lifechanging bus service. It was an honour to lead the fight for this bus service for these young folk with so much potential.
"Speaking to some of our brilliant young people up on Alston Moor instantly proved to me the value of such a service. Hearing about their hopes and dreams for the future, now attainable without having to ask mum and dad for eye-watering sums or having their life choices limited, was really moving.
“Thank you so much to headteacher Gill Jackson for all your hard work joining me in making this route a reality, Eden District Council for agreeing to earmark funding and Weardale Travel who will run the service.
“This is great progress for families in Alston Moor, but I know we need to do more there and elsewhere, but hopefully this is only the first step towards providing affordable, sustainable, and fair post-16 transport for young people living in rural areas across the country. Poor transport links can be a roadblock to accessing education no longer.”
Alston Moor Federation Headteacher, Gill Jackson, added: “The lack of access to good 6th form provision has limited the life chances of our wonderful young people for too long.
"I’m immensely grateful to our MP Neil Hudson for listening to our voices and using his position to make this project happen. On behalf of us all, I want to very much say a huge thank you to Eden District Council for engaging with us on this and for earmarking this vital funding. New College will give our young people access to a huge choice of courses, which will have something for everyone. This will make life better for our young people and much easier for their parents."