In August 2020 the world changed for the staff, parents and students of St Paul’s School and St Paul’s Juniors. Having had the previous school year disrupted by COVID-19, pupils and parents then faced the sudden closure of Hammersmith Bridge to pedestrians and cyclists just three weeks before the start of a new school year. With 60% of St Paul’s School students living north of the River Thames, the Bridge was also a popular drop off area for parents driving students to school, with an estimated 670 students and 110 staff walking across the bridge to school every day.
Matt Nicholl, Operations Director at St Paul’s School, reacted quickly to the crisis and within a tight timeframe worked with dedicated transport partner Kura to create a school run contingency plan ready for the start of new September school year. Not only did Kura re-configure three of the existing 11 Home to School routes to drop students off at the school rather than north the bridge, to help provide parents driving children to school with a safe, reliable transport alternative, three additional coach services were launched at new pick up points at Barnes Station, East Putney Station and Hammersmith Apollo.
Kura worked with the school to transport an additional 250 students daily, helping remove many cars from the road and easing congestion around a part of London that was already a hotspot during the peak.
Matt Nicholl, Operations Director, St Paul’s School, describes his feelings regarding that day back in August 2020 when news of the bridge closure first broke: “Our first concern was for the safety and wellbeing of our students, as we knew this would impact them all, regardless of how they get to the school every day. Our Home to School partner, Kura, responded quickly, re-configuring existing routes, building new ones and selecting/briefing vehicle operators all in a very short timeframe”.
On how the efforts of the school were received by parents, he explains “Feedback was very positive, especially from those parents with children using the service for the first time, who liked the measures put in place by Kura to ensure safe pupil travel in line with Government guidelines”.
Godfrey Ryan, CEO of Kura, is in no doubt of the enormity of the achievement by Matt Nicholl and his Operations team at the school, “To devise and deliver a complex transport plan for nearly 500 students, including new routes, so close to the start of a new year, was impressive. Kura is also proud of its role. A combination of Kura’s award-winning technology and access to a nationwide network of best local operators allows us to respond immediately to any school request, no matter how difficult. It’s just what we do”.