Pupils left stranded after bus ‘mishap’

Hugh O'Neill Head Teacher at St Benidicts Catholic Upper School
Hugh O'Neill Head Teacher at St Benidicts Catholic Upper School

FIFTEEN pupils were left stranded at school for two hours after being unable to board buses using valid passes.

The school children, all pupils at St Benedict’s School, in Bury St Edmunds, were trying to travel home to Newmarket on Friday following their first week of the new school year.

Parents were annoyed that they had to make a special trip to Bury to collect their children after they were turned away from two buses that they should have been able to travel on with their valid bus passes, which cost £528 per year for under-16s.

The group were unable to board the first bus because it was full and were turned away from the second bus, on which the driver said it could only carry paying customers and not pass holders.

Suffolk County Council (SCC) said a third bus was sent to ensure all students could get home, but the school said that the bus never arrived to collect the children.

St Benedict’s headteacher Hugh O’Neill said: “We always have one or two problems at the beginning of term. It’s always uncertain how many students will be travelling into Bury.

“I think in this case they slightly underestimated or a bus didn’t make its pick up time.

“It’s unfortunate and a bit distressing at the time but it’s not a permanent problem, just a mishap.”

An SCC spokeswoman said: “We identified in the first two days of term that there may be an issue with capacity on buses later in the week and therefore monitored the situation.

“An additional coach was put on for Thursday and we made arrangements for this to continue on Friday and the following week.

“The information we have is that the additional vehicle arrived alongside the other buses at the pick up point at the correct time. All seats were filled on the regular 311 service whilst some students who attempted to board the 311a were refused on the basis that drivers had to leave seats available for students on a nearby pick up point and that an additional bus was available for any of those students who did not get a seat on the other two vehicles.

“We appreciate that parents and students would like some solid answers. The county council is still looking into this and will be able to clarify what happened when further information has been assessed.

“However, we are confident that students were not left without a seat on a bus due to a lack of capacity – there were sufficient vehicles provided on the day to accommodate all passengers.”

SCC is still investigating and said that CCTV images showed there were three buses at the school at the time.