SBC apology too late to quell school bus anger

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It has emerged that almost three weeks of transport chaos was caused for parents of children at Ednam school due to minor vehicle offences.

Just days after local community interest transport firm Back ‘n’ Forth started bus services on three primary school and one high school route in the Kelso area for the new school term, the contracts were suspended.

Parents were not given any warning or explanation.

Quizzed at the end of August, Scottish Borders Council admitted that some “final paperwork issues” needed to be resolved.

But what followed was a rollcall of transport chaos, with a mixture of community bus services and taxis called in to ferry pupils.

It sparked complaints from Ednam school parents, who were not informed about the situation and only found out there were problems when Back ‘n’ Forth’s minibuses failed to appear on school mornings when children were already standing by the roadside.

There were also concerns about whether all the substitute drivers being used had enhanced disclosures, the lack of booster seats for some small children, worries about seatbelts being too high on youngsters, and small children being placed in seats facing airbags.

There were some mornings when pupils were left waiting for second uplifts by busy taxis.

However, pressed again on Monday about why the paperwork issue was taking so long to resolve, the local authority finally revealed police involvement.

A spokesperson for SBC told us the council would not comment further.

But added: “We are concerned to hear about any individual problems and we would be happy to discuss these with affected families and the school, and apologise for any disruption caused while this matter is ongoing.”

But then, just a day later, the local authority confirmed that Back ‘n’ Forth had been reinstated and its buses were back on three of its routes, including the KO3 Ednam 
service.

A Police Scotland spokesman said that officers carrying out regular roadside vehicle inspections had, in recent weeks, stopped and routinely checked vehicles being used on a school run.

“A number of relatively-minor offences were detected and suitable advice given to the company owner,” said the spokesman.

James Shannly, managing director of Back ‘n’ Forth, said he was delighted to be back in operation.

He told us: “We’re very pleased and have taken on board all the comments made.

“It’s just good getting back to helping out the local community, which is what we’re all about.”