Keeping School Transport Running Smoothly Amidst Chaos of Seasonal Storms

As January arrives, schools across the UK brace themselves for the unpredictable weather that often accompanies the start of the new, winter term. Recent events have reminded us of the havoc that winter storms and heavy snowfall can wreak on school transport operations.

Storms like Ciaran and Henk have brought regions to a standstill, causing widespread disruption and posing significant challenges to the safe transportation of students. Similarly, Storm Elin and Storm Fergus, along with widespread flooding, disrupted travel at the beginning of December.

Despite these challenges, services like Kura are helping schools to adapt to increasingly extreme weather conditions and carry on safely.

Storm Ciaran’s Impact on the South Coast

In the autumn of 2023, Storm Ciaran unleashed its fury on the south coast of England, causing widespread disruption across the region. Heavy rain led to chaos in Dorset, with a cascade of closures and cancellations affecting schools and public transport alike.

Several schools in Beaminster, Bridport, Blandford Forum, and Dorchester had no choice but to close their doors for the day, resorting to online lessons to ensure continuity in education. Meanwhile, a rail replacement bus service serving stations in the north of the county was suspended, leaving commuters stranded.

In Bridport, the town council’s supply of sandbags ran out, prompting a local building firm to step in and distribute sandbags to residents, offering much-needed assistance to those living within a 15km radius. West Milton faced its own challenges as a landslip covered the main route through the village with mud and debris, rendering it impassable.

Kura’s Response to the Chaos

Amidst this chaos, Kura rose to the occasion, demonstrating its commitment to student safety and uninterrupted service. The Kura Operations team worked tirelessly, using their award-winning, proprietary technology to keep schools and parents informed in real-time about the location of each vehicle.

While many schools decided to close the following day due to the worsening conditions, Kingston Maurward College near Dorchester, one of Kura’s valued customers, remained open.

Kura’s proactive approach ensured the safe transport of students to the college in the morning. However, Kura and the college monitored the forecast closely and stayed in dialogue – as conditions deteriorated in the afternoon, Kingston Maurward College made the decision to shorten the academic day and send all students home.

Kura once again sprang into action, swiftly contacting all operators who mobilised their vehicles to execute safe school runs for hundreds of students across ten different routes in Dorset to ensure they made it home before the weather made travel unsafe or impossible.

School Transport Winter Weather Preparedness

Winter weather preparedness goes beyond mere reaction; it encompasses a comprehensive strategy to ensure the safety and well-being of students, no matter the challenges posed by the elements. Here are some of the typical checks and actions Kura takes during the storm season and some ways you can incorporate them into your existing service:

  • Weather Forecast Monitoring: Transport team keeps a close eye on local weather forecasts, including yellow and amber warnings, to anticipate adverse conditions. App’s like accuweather can provide notifications of amber and yellow warnings to your phone.
  • Parent Communication: As we understand school closure can be a last-minute decision, the team needs to be working from 5 am to take action regarding school closures or altered schedules. Parents are promptly informed of any service changes.
  • Travel Updates: Continuous monitoring of travel updates and roadworks is essential to adapt routes as necessary. At Kura our teams use multiple tools to ensure we stay ahead of any disruptions. You can try for a live map of roadworks.
  • In-Service Messaging: Kura’s technology enables instant, one-tap messaging from drivers to the control team to report issues such as impassable roads due to flooding or snow.
  • Adapting to Public Transport Closures: Adapts by adding temporary stops to routes if necessaryand collaborating with all partners to ensure safe transportation options.
  • Serious Incident Management Plan (SIMP): A SIMP is a comprehensive plan that involves all relevant partners and staff as an integrated team. It covers planning, execution, and post-incident communication.
  • Vehicle Checks: Remind drivers or vehicle Operators to prepare vehicles for winter conditions, including leaving extra time for defrosting and valve checks.
  • Monitoring vehicles: Kura’s Essential plan is free, forever! Giving you the service tracking you need to make decisions before and during service. Knowing where each route is and who is on each service is vital for parent communication and student safety in inclement weather.

Schools Should Expect More Disruption from Extreme Weather in the Future

In recent years, the UK has experienced a series of severe winter storms. While the storms’ intensity may not necessarily increase, climate change is reshaping weather patterns and impacting the frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

Scientists from Plymouth University have detected a strong link between our planet’s rising temperature due to climate change and shifting weather patterns. The warming of the atmosphere and upper ocean, driven by human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, is expected to lead to more destructive tropical storms in equatorial regions, including hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons.

In the UK, where we are affected by extra-tropical storms, the effects of climate change are still significant. Although these storms are less sensitive to ocean water temperature, climate change is likely to shift their tracks or paths.

Some parts of the UK may become more stormy, while others may experience fewer storms. Regardless of changes in storm frequency, rising sea levels will increase storm surge levels, leading to more extensive coastal flooding.

Additionally, a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, resulting in intensified rainfall and torrential downpours. This can lead to widespread flooding, further complicating transportation and school operations.

While the exact impact of climate change on UK winter storms is still uncertain, schools can anticipate more disruption from extreme weather events in the future.

As weather patterns shift and become more unpredictable, preparedness and adaptable transportation solutions, like those offered by Kura, will play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and well-being of students during these challenging times.