THE county's education chief apologised to parents over problems with the introduction of a new school transport service - at a stormy public meeting branded "a shambles" and "a waste of time".

Mike Appleyard admitted communication to parents and headteachers over plans to change bus routes going to grammar schools in High Wycombe and Amersham had been "sometimes non existent" at Monday's meeting.

Some bus routes could be amalgamated and double deckers introduced on services in a bid to save Buckinghamshire County Council up to £5million.

The changes had originally been planned to be brought in at the start of the new school year but they are now set to be introduced in January after parents said there had not been a proper consultation.

Cllr Appleyard, the council's cabinet member for education, said at Monday's meeting at Dr Challoner's High School in Little Chalfont he would extend the deadline for comments on the plans until the end of October.

But this was only prompted after some debate, during which Cllr Appleyard had said: "It's pointless me giving you a revised date. I don't need a revised date on that" - to which parents chorused, "We do."

One parent called the meeting "a shambles", others said the exercise felt like a briefing rather than a meeting and questions over why the council were looking to "fix something that's not broken" were raised.

A parent said: "I'm feeling this is a waste of time. It's about you, not us and the impact on us."

And another added: "You've lost the confidence of the people in the room. The only way back from here is to put information in the public domain."

Cllr Appleyard said: "I do need to recognise that we haven't had a wonderful start to this term and we want to apologise most sincerely to everybody who's been put out. We are hoping we've put that behind us and we can now move on.

"Communications over some of the county were poor - sometimes non existent - and that's something that I clearly need to address.

"We expect, by the end of next week, to have revised routes which we can put before people.

"By all accounts some of the activities we've seen this year and last year were seen to be normal. If normal is not communicating to people and not producing a pretty decent result from day one - I don't accept that at all."

Cllr Appleyard said he wanted to create 'working groups' of parents and staff at each of the schools affected by the proposals as part of the consultation.

The proposed new bus routes would be available online for parents to view and comment on "within two weeks", he added.

But during the meeting Dr Challoner's High School headmaster Ian Cooksey was critical over the lack of an initial consultation.

He said the tendering process for the contract was launched before a consultation on the changes took place.

Mr Cooksey said: "If you signed a contract with the preferred bidder, what's the remit of any subsequent consultation? If there's no possibility of changing the route because there's a contract in place, the consultation is meaningless."

Andrew Bluck, contract manager at Amey, the company which operates the school transport service in Bucks, said it would be possible to make changes even after the contract tendering process had concluded.

Mr Cooksey told the Bucks Free Press after the meeting that parents whose children use the route from Penn Street and Coleshill were already electing to drive to the school instead of using the bus service because the journey was taking too long.

He added some students were taking far longer to arrive at school on one route from Gerrards Cross after additional stops were introduced.

He said: "My fear is, if we don't get this right, we are going to end up with so many cars, Little Chalfont will be completely inundated."

During the meeting parents said it was taking buses running along one route into High Wycombe 72 minutes to reach school, with one mum said pupils were late arriving at school ten times in 11 days.

Parents asked if this was a sign of what would happen if the proposed changes are implemented.

Mr Bluck said: "It shouldn't have happened. Something has gone awry. I can see why you see that as an unhelpful premonition. It wasn't intentional and I will find out why it happened."