A Sleaford area parent has reported a bus company to the county council after he claims his child’s school bus driver was not briefed on new stops set up due to safety concerns.
Howard Bradley, of Osbournby, contacted The Standard about his concerns after pressure by parents had seen the pick up and drop off point for the Osbournby to Sleaford school bus route shifted from the side of the busy A15 through the village to the quieter Market Place.
This came after St George’s Academy student Eliza Bill tragically died in a collision on the main road after getting off the bus to go home last year.
The first day of the new arrangements was last Tuesday. Mr Bradley said: “I took my son there to be picked up at 7.54am but the bus didn’t turn up. I went to look for it and saw it in the layby outisde the Whichcote Arms. I thought the driver had overshot and was trying to turn back. When I got to him I noticed he was wearing headphones (connected to a mobile phone) in one ear. I asked him what he was listening to while driving. He is entrusted with 50 kids.
“I asked him if he knew it was the first day of the change of timetable. He didn’t know about them. He evidently hadn’t reviewed the timetable he had with him. I reviewed it with him and showed him the changes.”
Mr Bradley was concerned that such a sensitive safety issue may not have been impressed upon drivers at the start of the new schedule. He tried contacting the head office of operator Sleafordian Coaches and then the county council educational transport department. He said: “I was keen to know if the drivers knew about the changes now and if it was policy for drivers to put sounds in their ears.”
Mr Bradley said: “I am furious. You would have thought that after the recent tragic circumstances they would be completely on this.”
After speaking to managers at both the council and Sleafordian he said he was told the driver was wearing the earpiece but was not on a call at the time.
According to the government’s website, hands-free devices are legal to use while driving, but drivers can be charged if distracted.
Anita Ruffle, Transport Services Group Manager, said: “Changes have been made to the Sleafordian Coaches’ route that goes into Sleaford schools from Osbournby. This allows the bus to stop on both sides of the A15 to avoid children having to cross the road. These changes were due to start from April 23 and parents were made aware. Unfortunately the driver missed the turning into Osbournby Market Place but he safely turned the vehicle around and arrived at the correct stop a couple of minutes later.”
She added: “The driver confirmed that he had an earpiece in at the time, but this was not in use. Advice has been provided to the company regarding this.”
A Sleafordian representative added: “All of our drivers are instructed to adhere to the guidelines as laid down nationally and also in the company’s driver handbook, the driver concerned has been spoken to formally about the events on Tuesday.
“All of our drivers were fully briefed on all the changes that were scheduled to have taken place on the first day of the new school term, as is the company policy of clear and concise communication.
“A senior member of our transport team did meet with a county council representative to discuss the bus stop changes following the tragic accident in December. This has taken until late April for the changes to be implemented.”