School bus crash driver reported

POLICE have reported a school bus driver for careless driving after his double-decker's roof was sliced clean off when it hit a railway bridge.

Laurence Cawley

POLICE have reported a school bus driver for careless driving after his double-decker's roof was sliced clean off when it hit a railway bridge.

The 51-year-old, from Haverhill, had just dropped off the last of his passengers on Tuesday afternoon when the incident happened at Little Saxham, near Bury St Edmunds.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said last night: “The driver of the bus was reported at the scene of the collision for careless driving.

“Further inquiries will be carried out and a file submitted (to the Crown Prosecution Service). A decision will then be made to either summons him to court for prosecution or discontinue the case.”

Although bus operator Burtons, of Haverhill, and police crash investigators will be looking at the incident - in which the driver was shaken but unharmed - no separate investigation is being carried out by Suffolk County Council, which contracts the 981 service.

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The incident has stunned pupils who live along the route the bus takes on a daily basis. One of them - 17-year-old Katy Pollard - could easily have been on the coach involved had she not opted instead for the 311 service which runs direct from Bury to Newmarket.

The pupil at County Upper School in Bury said: “I felt quite lucky because I was scheduled to be on that service. But because we had a bit of a problem with the timetables. I've never heard of anything like this happening before.”

Fellow pupil Gemma Smart, also 17, also told of her shock at seeing images of the bus after the crash. “The first thing I thought was 'I hope nobody was on it'. Nothing like that has ever happened while I've been at school.”

The school's headteacher Vicky Neale said: “We are really relieved there no school pupils were on this bus when the accident happened.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said: “The service usually uses a single-decker bus and follows a route through Little Saxham, Barrow and Denham that avoids this low bridge.

“At the time of the accident the specified school transport route had already been completed safely and the vehicle was no longer operating a council service.

“The county council specifies the route - the contractor is responsible for making sure their drivers are fully trained, conversant with the route and licensed to drive a public vehicle. The bridge (in question) is signed to conform to current regulations. There are warning signs on either side of the bridge and advance signs at both approach junctions. We have checked and these signs are all in place.”

John Major, communications director at the Confederation of Passenger Transport, speaking on behalf of Burtons, told how the driver was not on a route when the crash happened but was driving between jobs. He said the journey through Little Saxham was “one he didn't know”.

“Had it been a scheduled service,” he said, “those routes are meticulously checked by the operator and driver (and in some cases the local authority, Suffolk County Council) and would not involve a low bridge and a double-decker.”

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