Pupils 'at risk' on packed bus
PARENTS have slammed "unacceptable" overcrowding on buses to Tonbridge schools.
As our picture shows, youngsters are so crammed on there are not enough to seats to go round, with students packed into the aisle and some having to stand in the stairwell.
The law bans operators from letting pupils stand on school buses but the 267 Arriva service is not in breach because it is a public bus that students use.
Anxious mum Johanna Loveridge said: "The kids are standing almost anywhere they can. They are packed in like sardines.
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"We would not agree to travel to work this way."
To make matters worse, the bus takes up to two and a half hours to complete its journey to Tunbridge Wells, frequently making the children late for school.
The bus runs from Hawkhurst to Bennett Memorial School via Tonbridge, collecting and dropping off children from communities including Cranbrook, Goudhurst, and Horsmonden.
It leaves at 6.49am and is scheduled to arrive at Bennett at 8.35am – just ten minutes before registration.
Tonbridge Grammar School head teacher Rosemary Joyce told the Courier she knew of at least one parent who had complained about the 267.
The term-time-only double decker is run by Arriva but paid for by Kent County Council.
An Arriva spokesman said it was up to the council to make changes if overcrowding was occurring, because drivers could not leave children standing at bus stops.
Concerns about the daily crush have already convinced the council to lay on an extra single-decker bus to follow the first.
But Mrs Loveridge, whose 12-year-old son Sam attends Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys, said this had not helped, because the new bus only started and ended at Horsmonden, which is further along the route after the bulk of pupils had got on.
Mrs Loveridge and fellow parents have now presented a petition to Kent County Council calling for a dedicated bus to Tonbridge and another to Tunbridge Wells.
The online petition gained 117 signatures.
Nicolas Heslop, Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council cabinet member for transportation, questioned whether the 267's "bizarre" route was the most sensible that could be provided.
He said: "I'm grateful to the Courier for bringing this issue to my attention.
"I think it's absolutely critical that school children have a bus route that is both safe and timely. I know that as a parent of two secondary school pupils, but I also know that from what I hear from the residents in my own ward and other parts of Tonbridge.
"We need to investigate this further and I will invite the county council to report to the joint transportation board at Tonbridge and Malling.
Kent County Council said it was aware of concerns. A spokesman said: "We have now received the petition, which will be considered and responded to in due course."