Foggy Muddy Road by Daniel Hoherd

The municipal region of Nienburg decided, quite some time ago, that the educational needs of those resident within its borders could just as well be served with fewer schools, thus saving the region, which is effectively bankrupt, a tidy sum for use within other budgets. The result has been the closure of several major schools and the relocation of all the students to those remaining establishments lucky enough to have been spared the guillotine.

Sadly, many of the students decided that, despite their forced educational relocation, they would not move to new residences and, as a result, many found themselves living in areas not normally served by public transport – buses not having been planned to run from one estate to a different town prior to the closure of the schools since the transportation of students was unnecessary. As a result the municipal region has been forced to privately hire buses to move students from their homes to the new school areas, at great cost and great inconvenience. New routes for these buses, bearing in mind the costs involved, had to be planned as well as changes to the school and bus timetables in order to accommodate all eventualities and learning plans. One of these routes transports children who formerly attended the newly equipped and highly successful school in Heemsen to Steimbke, requiring that the buses use a route through the forest area around Sonnenbostel which is not ideally suited to heavy traffic, other than that of the forestry commission.

This week the local authority in Sonnenbostel came together to complain about damage to the forest road, and especially to the unpaved border area between tarmac and forest. High on their list of culprits for the damage caused by heavy vehicles were the bus companies.

There has been a bus, the route 42, running along this road for many years without a single complaint. The addition of a second bus, which runs the same route at the same time, cannot be considered cause for too much concern, unless a scapegoat is being sought. This is clearly the case here. A quick inspection of the damaged roadside areas, which members of the local council are purported to have undertaken and for which there is photographic evidence that some were a, shows that the damage has been caused not by the occasional bus driving to and from the school complex, but by the forestry commission vehicles which cut, stack and then gather wood. This is an event which takes place at the same time every single year and with exactly the same results: the road edges are wet and muddy; the transport vehicles are required to stop outside of marked and suitably prepared tracks; the additional weight of wood loaded onto the transporters causes them to sink further into the morass, and leave deep tracks when, fully loaded, they drive away.

To place the blame for this annual event, the damage to forest roads, on a bus route which runs a total of three or four times in a day rather than the local officials who not only required that the buses run this route, but requisition the transport for the removal of felled trees, is beneath contempt. The politicians from Steimbke, Sonnenbostel and Nienburg should look to their own actions and the actions of their employees before trying to place the blame on those who are helping solve one of the many major mistakes local politicians constantly make, and get children who are required by law to attend a school there on time.

The result of this sad action will be seen in the future budgets of the region. Buses are now allowed to travel the forest road only when they are transporting children to school. For the return journey, which is a considerably longer distance, they now drive along the main roads. The additional distance has to be paid for, and this cost is considerably higher than any repairs – which are never carried out – to roads and the small strip of land where tractors and heavy goods vehicles cause their damage.