Midhurst school bus to stop thanks to pupil's bad behaviour

Richardson Travel Ltd has given up operating two daily buses transporting Midhurst schoolchildren – after repeated attempts to address behaviour problems appear to have failed.

The last straw seems to have been an accident in April when it is claimed the driver of a double decker bus was distracted by a pupil and was unable to brake in time to avoid hitting the car in front.

This week Midhurst Rother College denied poor behaviour had played any part in the end of the school transport contract.

Richardsons has taken the unusual step of issuing a public notice through the Observer to inform parents of their reasons for stopping part of their service.

The company has stopped its 423 and 424 service to Fernhurst and Camelsdale after giving notice to West Sussex County Council and an announcement was made at school assembly at the Midhurst Rother College.

In its statement the company says it has a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of its driving staff and carries out regular risk assessments under health and safety guidelines.

"After an accident on Wednesday, April 29 such an assessment was repeated and concluded that under the current arrangements the risk not only to our staff but passengers and other road users on the A286 had become unacceptable."

The statement said that luckily neither its passengers nor the driver were injured but the bus was beyond 'economical repair'.

"In our opinion another fraction of a second and this could have resulted in far more serious consequences, especially if the vehicle in front had been much larger and more substantial."

The statement continued that Richardsons had supplied buses for the Midhurst-Hammer corridor for almost 20 years.

"Numerous well-documented attempts to have West Sussex County Council adopt practices that have been proven in other counties to improve behaviour reduce risks dramatically and provide clear lines of communications between parents and the company have all failed," said the statement.

Richardsons will continue to run its 996 service for 'out of catchment' pupils at least until the end of this term.

A spokesman for the Midhurst Rother College said: "It is our understanding that behaviour has nothing to do with the ending of the contract on June 5."

The spokesman said it was the school's understanding that the structure of the bus company was changing and the ending of the contract could be a 'business decision'.

"We have good policies and processes in place," she added.

"If there is an incident on a bus it is documented and followed up by sanctions given to any student being poorly behaved on a bus."The school takes a hard line if anyone is putting any child or driver at risk."

A letter to the Midhurst & Petworth Observer signed 'a very disappointed parent' has called for drastic action to be taken against 'irresponsible individuals who put other people's lives at risk'.

The parent said the poor behaviour problem of some pupils travelling on these buses had been known before the setting-up of the new Midhurst Rother College last year.

The letter continued: "This situation has been allowed to develop and obviously escalate out of control to the point this transport service will no longer be provided by Richardsons."

Another parent who did not wish to be named said: "I did know there had been an accident, but I was not aware of any ongoing behaviour problems."

A West Sussex County Council spokeswoman said action had been taken to get pupils to school following the decision.

She said: "West Sussex County Council, working with Midhurst Rother College, take allegations of poor behaviour very seriously.

"All reports are monitored and investigated thoroughly.

"West Sussex County Council and Stagecoach have been able to take on both of the services affected so children can continue to get to school."

Do you support Richardson Travel's decision to refuse to pick up Midhurst Rother College students? To cast your vote see the panel on the right.

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