The owner of a Bucks company that charged parents for a school bus service which has since been cut has told them to seek refunds following backlash. 

James Thorpe, the owner and director of Harlequin Travel, a private company that has provided school bus services to The Beaconsfield School and Beaconsfield High School for the past two years, has told disgruntled parents to seek a refund after money was taken from their accounts for a bus service that is no longer available to them. 

Natalie Allen, 50, who lives in Flackwell Heath and has a daughter in Year 11 at Beaconsfield High School, said she and other parents have struggled to make contact with Mr Thorpe since receiving an email from the company on August 31 informing them that the service had been reduced from two buses to just one, days before the beginning of the September term. 

Harlequin Travel had become the primary method of transport to and from Beaconsfield for families in the Flackwell Heath, Wooburn Green and Loudwater areas, which are outside Buckinghamshire Council's catchment zones. 

Mr Thorpe previously denied that any money had been taken from parents who booked a seat on the second school bus back in May and have now been moved to a waiting list but he has now recanted, clarifying that a direct debit payment was taken on September 1 from everyone who initially requested a spot. 

He said: "No money was taken for a full annual pass in May but direct debit payments for the first month were taken out on September 1, given the short notice we have to parents for cancelling the service.

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"We encourage anyone who has been charged but had their pass cancelled to contact us and we will issue a full refund immediately."

Mrs Allen previously told the Free Press that forty parents had confirmed to her that money was removed from their accounts by Harlequin Travel despite the service being withdrawn.

She emphasised the need of the community for a reliable bus service adding that she felt she had been wrong in her earlier assessment of the company as a means of "taking our kids safely to and from school".

"The email I received states that we had to have applied in time in May, which all parents did. To pull a service with no communication and no solution is unacceptable.

"Now, I don't know what we are going to do. We can't actively do anything."

Mr Thorpe said the service had been reduced for cost-related reasons, citing the economic challenges facing the public transport industry which include an increase in insurance costs and the rising price of labour, repairs and materials.

He added: "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 at an earlier date.

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