More bus woe for school children

PUBLISHED: 10:54 22 September 2010

Royston bus station

Royston bus station

Archant

A SCHOOLBOY has claimed a bus driver said he “couldn’t give a monkeys,” when he told him he had spare seats on his bus even though he had refused entry to his autistic brother.

The 13-year-old, a student at Freman College in Buntingford who has a season ticket to travel, had attempted to board the 899 bus at Royston bus station with his 15-year-old brother, who did not have a ticket.

The driver, who works part time for Richmond coaches of Royston who run the buses for Herts County Council, hadn’t been told of an agreement between the company and the boys’ parents to allow the autistic boy, who goes to the school part time, on without a ticket.

The boys’ mother said: “Since my youngest son has started, my eldest has wanted to go on the bus with him.

“I had spoken to Richmonds and they said even though they couldn’t guarantee he would be let on, they would try and get him on the bus with his brother until a season ticket had arrived.

“On this day he didn’t get on so was left at the station. He had been on all week with no problem before this. I had to rush him to school myself.”

“I told my son who was allowed on to see how many seats were left at the end of the journey and tell the driver he turned his brother away. The driver told him he couldn’t give a monkeys.”

The mother had applied for a season ticket for her autistic son at a cost of £500, and since the incident has had this authorised, but still claims she is being discriminated against.

“Paying on the day is £3.40 a day, which although works out cheaper than the season ticket, is easier to find for some parents. They are discriminating against parents that can’t afford the season ticket.

“They are saying you have to have a season ticket to guarantee a seat or your child will not be able to get to school.”

Andrew Richmond of Richmond coaches said: “I can’t confirm whether it (the comments made by the driver) is true or not. He is a part time driver and I haven’t spoken to him.

“I know the two lads involved and I have spoken to the mother and apologised.”

The controversy follows last weeks story that a 15-year-old Freman College pupil was made to walk home to Royston after being refused entry to public bus.

Freman College headteacher Helen Loughran said: “I would really like there to be enough transport for our students travelling from Royston and I sympathise very much with the students who are still finding it difficult to get to Freman College each day. As the service is run by Hertfordshire County Council it is not something, as a school, that we have control over. I really do hope that things can be resolved for these families as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, in a move that will anger parents further, Hertfordshire County Council have announced there are to be cuts to school travel.

A statement read: “The need to reduce the £25 million annual school transport budget will be the major motivation behind a radical re-think to the county’s approach in deciding whether it can continue to offer transport to school and college over and above the legal entitlement.

“When parents and carers are considering which schools to apply for it is crucial that they consider all aspects of how their child will travel to school.”

The authority did confirm however that the amount of season tickets sold for the 899 bus will not outweigh the amount of seats available.

The mother said: “I know loads of parents that are sharing lifts and if the council would put on a bigger bus then they could fill it easily, but they won’t.”

There is expected to be a consultation on proposed cuts in coming weeks.

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