A parent said they were blindsided by a company that informed customers it was significantly reducing its school bus service just days before the beginning of term.

Natalie Allen, 50, who lives in Flackwell Heath and has a daughter in Year 11 at Beaconsfield High School said she, alongside other parents in Loudwater and Wooburn Green, had become reliant on the private bus company Harlequin Travel after learning they were outside Buckinghamshire Council's school catchment area.

On Thursday, August 31, however, Natalie received an email from the company stating that the service, consisting of two buses, had been reduced to just one vehicle - transferring many pupils to a waiting list and leaving them without a way of getting to school when autumn term begins the following week. 

Natalie said: "There is a massive need in our community - we were told this was a reliable coach company that could take our kids safely to and from school.

"Now, I don't know what we are going to do. We can't actively do anything. The email that I was sent states that we had to apply for a seat on the bus in May, which all of us parents did.

"To pull a service at such short notice, with no communication and no solution, is unacceptable."

She added: "In the past, it's always been the way that existing clients come first. Now, apparently, Yeat 7s with no siblings have been given existing places on the bus ahead of my child, who has been reliant on this transport for the last two years."

READ MORE: Bus firm announces more service in Bucks - See the new routes

James Thorpe, owner and director of Harlequin Travel, said the service had been reduced to just one bus for cost-related reasons.

"We had the intention of running two buses this term, but the numbers didn't justify it, especially with the rise in driver's wages and other financial challenges facing the industry.

"I want to apologise to everyone who has been affected. I will hold my hands up and say that we should have let parents know about this change at an earlier date, but I can say that we have not taken any money from anyone who hasn't been provided with a seat." 

He added that customers were given the option of signing up for a seat between April and May, but that places on the reduced service had been given on a first come first served basis. 

"It is regrettable that we didn't let people know sooner. It was simply not financially viable to continue using two buses.

"The reasons for the reduction in services are the same reasons that some other companies, including Heyfordian Travel, have recently gone bust - insurance inflation and the increased costs of labour, repairs and materials."