School bus drama

Wednesday August 14th 2019

East Lothian Council

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

A new school bus route was ruled unsafe after it was checked two days before pupils were due to use it.

Parents have reacted with anger after East Lothian Council carried out a safety check on the route and discovered the bus was too big to travel the country lanes.

The late check came after the local authority changed bus operators at the end of last term, replacing Prentice Coaches, which had covered school bus routes for 21 years in the county.

New contracts were awarded to other operators but parents this week took to social media to vent frustration, with claims some did not know when and where the new buses would be running and pupils were still waiting to be issued the correct bus passes.

One mother said that her daughter, who is starting first year at secondary school, had been sent an over-60s bus pass instead of one for school.

Others said that their children had dropped off the lists given to the new operators or been put on the wrong ones.

However, the late safety check on the 158 Gifford to Haddington route sparked the biggest outcry.

The rural home to school service, which takes pupils to Knox Academy in Haddington from the village of Gifford and surrounding communities, was due to be covered by a new operator with a 60-seater bus.

However, a safety run carried out yesterday found it was too big for some of the narrow roads and corners on the route.

Now pupils living in the more remote areas will have to be picked up by a smaller coach or people carrier and taken to meet the bus in Gifford itself.

Parents of children expecting to be picked up by the new bus tomorrow (Wednesday) were urged to contact the new operators to ensure they were on the list amid claims that they had not been given the correct information.

Questions were being asked on social media about why the bus route was not checked earlier.

One parent said: “Children will be getting off one bus and going on another, despite legally not being allowed to do this.

“The likelihood is that some children will not be collected for school tomorrow.”

Another said: “What a nightmare for children and parents.”

A spokesperson for East Lothian Council said that following a drive through of the 158 route, it was agreed the operator would use a “16-seat capacity bus which would be more suited to the narrow rural routes”.

They said: “Young people will transfer from this vehicle to the larger Knox Academy bus in central Gifford. This is standard, legal practice.

“Safety is our number one priority when arranging home to school transport.”

The spokesperson added: “We are working with colleagues across the council and in schools to ensure that all pupils who have been issued with a bus pass are on the transport providers’ lists and to improve access to the school transport timetables.

“We recognise that this may have caused uncertainty for parents, carers and pupils.

“Our staff and the transport providers will continue to work closely together to manage the transition to these new arrangements.”

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