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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Cumbrian pupils walked home along busy main road after bus breakdown

A PARTY of 20 children aged between 12 and 16 walked home along a busy main road after their school bus was stricken by brake failure.

The director of Ian’s Midi Coaches in Dalston told a hearing before the North West Traffic Commissioner that the children refused to wait for alternative transport.

But after hearing testimony, Deputy Traffic Commissioner Simon Evans suspended the firm’s licence to operate its six buses for three days, from Thursday of this week.

He also imposed a condition stipulating that the company should only operate four of its six buses at any one time until the end of June. The firm’s director and transport manager Ian Murray must also attend a PSV Transport Manager’s refresher course within 90 days.

The company, of New Road, Dalston, Carlisle, was called before the Deputy Commissioner at a meeting in Warrington.

For Ian’s Midi Coaches, David Glover said that the incident occurred because the bus’s brakes’ master cylinder failed, which could have happened at any time.

The company’s buses had since been inspected by both the Vehicle and Operators Service Agency and the local authority and the results had been positive. Mr Murray said the bus concerned was fine that morning.

On the way to the second drop-off at Thursby village along the A595 the driver noticed problems with the brakes as he approached the junction with the road to Thursby. So he had “drifted” the bus into the side of the road about 100 yards from the junction.

The driver said that he had some brakes and gradually came to a stop. The children were aged 12 to 16 and 15 of them lived in the village.

He thought the other five had also walked into the village and phoned their parents. The driver arranged for a colleague to bring a seven-seater bus but when he arrived to take the children home there was nobody there and he took the driver back to the yard.

It was very difficult to stop children getting off when they were close to home. If they had waited 10 minutes they would have been taken home.

The master cylinder was topped up at the roadside and he had driven the bus back to the yard himself.

Drivers were instructed that nobody left a broken-down bus until alternative transport or parents arrived.

Asked about a bus immediately banned from the road at annual test for brake defects, Mr Murray said that a new brake pipe had been fitted and it had either not been tightened properly or had come loose between Carlisle and Workington.

In his decision the Deputy Commissioner said he took account that there was no evidence of clear culpability by the operator or the firm maintaining the company’s buses that led to the brake failure and that there had been a satisfactory school bus check since. However, he felt some action was necessary in view of the potentially serious nature of the incident.

After the hearing Mr Murray said: “The kids just scarpered, and wouldn’t wait for the back up transport. But it was only 200 yards into the village, so there was no safety issue.”

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