When Hills children board the bus for their daily trip to school they face one of two very different journeys.
Students who catch a dedicated school bus will enjoy their own seat, the luxury of a seatbelt to keep them safe and the assurance that they won’t have to stand up and “strap hang” on roads with a 100kmh speed limit.
Those who rely on public transport, however, might face a mad scramble to get on the bus in the first place.
If they manage to push their way on board, they could be squashed three to a double seat or left battling for room to stand in an aisle littered with school bags.
They will then have to hang on as the bus negotiates traffic on twisting Hills roads.
It’s no wonder that parents of children who have to catch SouthLink public buses to school are worried about their safety.
On the one hand, the bus company can happily pack students onto its commuter services with few restrictions.
On the other, the same company must adhere to stringent operating guidelines for the bus services it is contracted by the State Government to provide to local schools to ensure student safety.
The differences in standards are difficult to reconcile.
A large number of Hills children attend private and public schools in Adelaide and need public transport to get there.
It is paramount that they are provided with a safe service on which they can rely.
Where the Government has no problems in providing and funding school buses on certain routes, it seems to baulk at the idea of ensuring there are enough public buses to meet the peak school time needs.
Parents of Cornerstone College students who raised similar concerns this year about overcrowding on their children’s bus run from Strathalbyn to Mt Barker were able to secure an extra bus.
It followed reports of children on the crowded bus being told to sit in the aisle, because if any children were standing the bus would only travel at 60kmh.
That presents its own dangers – both to standing passengers (a crash at 60kmh can still be deadly) and to other motorists sharing a 100kmh road with a bus going substantially slower.
The problem appears to come down to money.
SouthLink simply does not have the resources to add extra buses on all its packed routes.
It needs an injection of government funding to ensure it can provide more vehicles on the runs that are worst affected at peak time.
All school children deserve an equally safe trip to school.