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The Chorister School walking bus

The Chorister School, Durham is an independent school catering for around 180 pupils aged from three to 13-years-old. To reduce traffic congestion at the school the travel plan working group set up a walking bus.


The school is unique in the North East of England as it is a working choir school educating Durham Cathedral's choristers. 

It is situated in the 'back garden' of Durham Cathedral, and occupies a World Heritage site which is shared with other cathedral buildings as well as Durham Castle. 

The catchment area for the school is vast due to its reputation and boarding facilities, and many of the school's day pupils are driven on the school journey due to the long distances from their homes to school.

The school has existed on this site for nearly 600 years and therefore the access arrangements were not designed for modern day traffic. The only vehicle entrance to the school is along Saddler Street, through the city's market place, which is subject to a congestion charge. The road is a narrow, cobbled, medieval street which has very narrow pavements.

Main aims and objectives

Saddler Street is the main route from the market place to the cathedral and is lined with shops and restaurants, many of which receive their deliveries at the beginning of the day to avoid the congestion charge which operates from 10.00am onwards.

North Bailey, which leads on to South Bailey, is flanked by three colleges of Durham University, as well as numerous other university buildings. The number of parents driving their children to school was adding to the congestion on Saddler Street. It was this congestion and the difficulties faced by parents driving along this route that prompted the school to develop a school travel plan.

The main aims of this plan are to:

  • reduce school traffic use of North Bailey
  • improve punctuality of some pupils
  • offer alternatives to driving up North Bailey
  • increase parents' and pupils' awareness of the alternatives to car travel
  • to work in partnership with us to develop sustainable initiatives.

The Walking Bus Project

To meet these aims and objectives the school travel planning working group came up with the idea of setting up a walking bus from The White Gates on Quarryheads Lane. It was envisaged that parents would drop their children off at the White Gates where they would be met and supervised by adult volunteers who would then escort them into school.

The walking route from the White Gates involves walking down a hill, crossing over Prebends Bridge, and entering the cathedral 'backyard' through a tunnel.

The working group felt confident that the walking bus would provide an attractive alternative for parents driving along North Bailey, not only was the chosen route the most picturesque in the county, but it was completely traffic free too. Staff members from the school who already walked to school along this route volunteered to escort the pupils on the journey.

Initially the walking bus operated one day a week, however, the demand and popularity of the scheme resulted in the bus extending its operation to five mornings a week. To support the additional services further, staff members were recruited to help and a rota was set up to cover the more frequent operation.

Celebrating success

In celebration of the National Walk to School Week, local historian David Butler visited the walking bus to accompany the pupils on their journey into school. He delivered a historical talk to the pupils and adults highlighting points of interest relating to Durham's coal mining history, while also thrilling them with tales of bridges, battles and bravery.                 

Bernard Young, a performance poet from Yorkshire also visited the school during the National Walk to School Week. Bernard performed some of his own poems for the pupils' enjoyment, then assisted them in their classrooms to write poems of their own based on the theme of 'walking and talking'. The pupils gathered together at the end of the day to share their poems with each other and their teachers. It was obvious that the pupils had worked very hard to create some wonderful work and had thoroughly enjoyed meeting a real life poet.        

A register is taken each morning before the walking bus sets off, and at the end of term those pupils who have walked over seventy per cent of the time are awarded with a special metal pin badges in the shape of feet. The pupils take great pride in wearing and collecting their badges, clearly demonstrating that they are proud to be part of their unique and very special walking bus.

Outcomes of the Walking Bus project

The success of the walking bus is underpinned by the commitment of the staff to volunteer and this has certainly helped to sustain and raise its profile within the school and the wider community.

The walking bus regularly has up to forty pupils using it as part of their journey to school. This level of participation has resulted in a considerable reduction in the number of vehicles travelling along Saddler Street and North Bailey.

Uniquely, patronage on the bus cuts across all age groups as it is used by some of the very youngest pupils, some of who are only three years old,  right through to the 13-year-old prep pupils. This clearly indicates that walking on the train is enjoyed by everyone at the school. 

Contact us
Travel Planning
03000 265 309
Our address is:
  • Regeneration and Local Services
  • Sustainable Transport
  • County Hall
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 5UQ
0191 383 4080