School bus contract axed after speeding claim

A BUS company has had its contract with a Suffolk middle school terminated after a driver taking pupils home was stopped on suspicion of speeding.

A BUS company has had its contract with a Suffolk middle school terminated after a driver taking pupils home was stopped on suspicion of speeding.

Police officers who were carrying out speed checks in a 30mph zone stopped the bus that was carrying pupils from Bungay Middle School at the end of the school day.

The youngsters were taken off the 29-seat coach on Flixton Road at about 4.30pm on Thursday.

Sophie Wood said she was waiting for her nine-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son at a bus stop in South Elmham.

But when the bus failed to appear at the usual time she phoned the school on her mobile.

“I tried to phone but then my signal went,” she said. “A lot of the parents were phoning the school because it was 45 minutes late - we were all beginning to completely panic.”

Most Read

She said that many people thought the bus might have broken down, but could not be sure, adding: “Neither the bus driver nor the police had phoned the school as soon as they stopped the bus - they could have saved all us from worrying. We were in a state of thinking, what's happened to our kids?”

Most of the children had to wait while their parents travelled to pick them up once the school contacted them, although Ms Wood said she was told that the bus was merely undergoing a “routine check”.

Ms Wood said she did not trust her children to travel in the same vehicle with a different driver the following day, not knowing what the problem had been, so drove them to school herself.

A Suffolk police spokesman said that the driver has been reported for offences of excess speed and for driving without a driving licence.

Suffolk County Council, which is responsible for the school transport, confirmed that the driver was working for Country Travel Coaches, a Leiston-based company that had held the contract since September 2008. A council spokesman said that the contract had since been handed over to Gold Line.

No-one at Country Travel Coaches could be contacted last night.

Guy McGregor, county councillor responsible for roads and transport, said: “I greatly regret the inconvenience and anxiety caused to children and parents on the bus. The safety of children at all times is absolutely paramount, and we take any concerns very seriously.

“When it was confirmed by the police that they stopped the bus on suspicion of motoring offences, we acted immediately.

“We have cancelled the operator's contract for this route and called the contractor in to demand an explanation.”

Mr McGregor said that insurance details must be provided to the council annually and that the operator must ensure that all drivers are appropriately licensed and provide the names of all their drivers on county council contracts to ensure that they are CRB checked.

Mr McGregor added: “Proper licensing, vehicle safety and driver behaviour are all vital requirements for school transport and we insist on complete compliance by our contractors. Safety checks on vehicles used are done regularly by the police and VOSA.”