x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Schools weigh up parents' demands for shuttle service

Schools are ready to assess whether they will need to start shuttle services taking pupils to and from nearby Metro stations.

DUBAI // Schools are ready to assess whether they will need to start shuttle services taking pupils to and from nearby Metro stations as the new service may offer an appealing alternative to the school bus. The opening of the Metro co-incides with the start of the academic year at some schools which have increased bus fees to the point where some parents consider them prohibitive.

Dubai schools say they are waiting to see how many pupils will be using the train before deciding whether to reroute their buses. While some parents said they were ready to consider sending their children to school by the Metro, others cited difficulties in accessing the network, mainly because of long distances between stations and schools, and high temperatures. Peter Daly, the headmaster of the English Speaking College in Academic City, said there were no plans to collect students from the Metro but the school was not averse to rerouting buses if parents wanted it.

"Like most schools in the city we supply a bus service to collect students," he said. "We are located in Academic City, which is not served by a Metro line. However, if parents thought it was convenient to use the Metro we would look to pick up from the stations." Schools closer to the Metro, including the Wellington International School and Dubai College, said they had not introduced a shuttle service or staff supervision at Metro stations and did not expect large numbers of students to arrive by train. However, all schools said they would consider providing such services if parents requested it.

A number of schools in Dubai raised their bus fees - some by as much as 20 per cent - when the new safety rules came into effect last week. Some said they had to buy new buses to comply with the law. Elbe Venter, 41, a resident of Knowledge Village who has three children in school, said she was one of a group of parents who had contacted schools to ask whether they would transport and supervise children from Metro stations to the school gates.

"Currently I pay for my children to go to school by hired buses, which is very expensive," she said. "I was planning to use the Metro instead, but the school is two kilometres from the nearest station and it is difficult to access a station from my home in Knowledge Village. The location of stations doesn't seem to have been planned with schools in mind." Sarah, a parent of a pupil in nursery school, said her son had pleaded with her to go to school on the Metro, but high temperatures meant the walk at either end of the journey made this unrealistic.

"When we are back in London my son is very excited about journeys on the Tube," she said. "He has seen the Metro trains here and considers it as a treat to go on one. But the distance to the nearest station and the lack of a station at the school makes it unrealistic at the moment. In fact, I can't think of any schools that are close enough to the Metro to walk. "For older children in high school, I think they would enjoy travelling with their friends to school on the Metro, and it would give their mothers the morning off."

While many parents have hoped to plan a school run using the Metro, most have been frustrated that the initially limited scope of the network left them no alternative but to continue to use cars. tbrooks@thenational.ae