ALMOST 40 schoolkids were left stranded in subzero temperatures this week waiting for a bus after council chiefs scrapped their free school service.

Parents and pupils in Lawthorn have been left outraged after standing in -4 conditions waiting for the Stagecoach 30A service, which directly replaced the former North Ayrshire Council school bus.

The Times revealed in June that council bosses planned to scrap the Lawthorn to Greenwood free bus meaning kids as young as 11 would be expected to walk almost three miles on their own, to school - or pay more than £40 per month for the bus.

The free council bus was axed on December 22 - the last day of school before Christmas. Monday was the first day of the new Stagecoach bus operating but, parents say due to a technical fault, the bus was 25 minutes late, leaving kids in freezing weather - and late for school.

Mum Dionne Strachan’s 13-year-old daughter was one of the kids left out in the cold.

She said: “We had 40 kids standing outside in the freezing cold for 25 minutes longer than they should have had to thanks to North Ayrshire Council.

“The council should never have taken the school run off in the first place. The safe walking route and shortest journey supplied by NAC, which is just under three miles is a 50 minute walk through the park and underpasses between here and Bourtreehill. I wouldn’t do it and I wouldn’t expect a group of 11-17 year olds to do it either, especially in sub zero temperatures.”

After seeing that the council would not budge on plans to scrap the free bus, The Lawthorn and Perceton Parent Group asked Stagecoach to put on an extra service to ferry the kids to school every day and they agreed.

Dionne said: “Stagecoach have thrown us a lifeline by even agreeing to put on the extra service but it wouldn’t have been needed if NAC had continue to honour the service that was already in place.

“Many children have told of incidences where kids are put off the buses by the drivers or they flat out ignore them at the stops so they don’t get picked up. That’s why a 1 journey system was working so well. They got on up at Lawthorn and were taken straight to the school. The public service is not equipped, or obligated, to pick up our kids and insure they get to school safely. They are seen as customers. Stagecoach are not under contract through the education department.

“I know it may seem like a non-issue to a lot of people but it’s the kids being affected in this situation that gets me so annoyed about it. A lot of them will now have to try and arrange lifts which takes that away and just adds to the congestion at the school. Irvine is meant to be the “most improved town” well this isn’t an improvement, it’s a step backwards.”

Personal safety of children getting a public bus or having to walk the 50 minute route is also a concern according to Natalie Dewar, 16, a pupil at Greenwood. Natalie has been instrumental in the campaign to save the axed bus, claiming the young people of Irvine are being “ignored” by North Ayrshire Council.

She said: “They say they want to hear us but we have gone to them with our very serious concerns about our safety if we are forced to walk this route and they just are not interested. They made it explicitly clear to us during the meetings we had with them that they would just not budge on this bus issue. They don’t care. I think it’s fair to say we feel let down.”

Despite the concerns, North Ayrshire Council say it is no longer their responsibility.

A spokesperson said: “In accordance with Scottish Government guidelines, a decision was taken last year to withdraw the bus service to Greenwood Academy, covering the Lawthorn and Perceton areas of Irvine. The reasons for this were outlined in detail at the time.

“While we are sorry to hear that there was a problem with the local bus service, this is a matter for Stagecoach and therefore it would not be appropriate for us to make any further comment.”

A spokeswoman for Stagecoach West Scotland said: "Unfortunately due to a vehicle issue our new 30A service to Greenwood Academy ran late on Monday morning. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused and we are liaising with parents to ensure that any teething issues on the service are resolved and that a quality commercial service is provided to passengers using this new service."