School bus company hits back over ‘unfair’ petition

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A petition asking for Central Bedfordshire Council to remove Barton Coach Company from providing the council’s school transport has reached more than 100 online signatures.

Set up by Lisa Schofield, the petition had 129 supporters by yesterday afternoon (Tuesday).

The petition reads: “The continued unacceptable service provided by Barton Coaches is a major concern.

“Children are regularly late to and from middle school, causing disruption to their education. We are frequently told this is because buses have broken down or have other mechanical issues.

“This failure to maintain properly working vehicles consequently calls into question the safety of our children on their daily journeys. Central Beds needs to act now find a new and reliable service.”

Arnold Academy, in Barton-le-Clay, sent a letter to parents on Friday. It said: “I should say that we share concerns raised and have been in regular contact with the school transport department at Central Bedfordshire Council over many months. We will always forward parental concerns about the service and will always follow up if there is an issue concerning the conduct of pupils.”

A spokesperson for Central Bedfordshire Council said: “It goes without saying that we take all complaints very seriously and the safety of our schoolchildren is really important to us, as well as getting them to school on time!

“When parents tell us there are issues, we look into them thoroughly which we’ve done in this case, although we routinely do a number of monitoring checks to maintain standards.

“We have had some useful meetings with Barton Coaches who have helped us with all requests, including for extensive vehicle checks. We’ve also been out with Vehicle and Operator Services Agency to do spot checks at the roadside to make sure vehicles are roadworthy and safe to use on our routes. We are satisfied that they are roadworthy.

“If parents continue to have concerns, the best place to contact us is on 0300 300 8167 so that we can investigate straight away and make sure that everyone is listened to and feels part of the monitoring process.”

Steve Gildea, director of Barton Coach Company, believes the complaints on the petition are unfair. He said: “We are proud and passionate about our service on the school run and I am happy to share technology we have from the buses with parents to help solve any issues they have. I am always happy to talk to parents to sort out any issues there may be on the school run.

“It is frustrating to see parents from towns that are not near our school run comment and sign the petition, when it doesn’t affect them.”

> To view the petition visit: www.change.org/p/central-bedfordshire-school-transport-dept-remove-barton-coaches-from-central-beds-school-transport