Bus firm hits back at complaints about double decker

The managing director of the firm running school buses from Cove and Kilcreggan to Hermitage Academy has hit back at a series of claims made by parents of pupils.

Stuart McQueen, managing director of Garelochhead Coaches, has issued a point by point rebuttal of issues raised at a meeting of Cove and Kilcreggan Community Council last week.

He says the firm has never been contacted about most of the alleged problems with double deckers, adding: “As an operator of buses and coaches for some 20-plus years I am sure you will understand we take our responsibilities very seriously.

“We would appreciate it if any parents have any valid concerns contact us as soon as reasonably practical so we can deal with them promptly – our door is always open.”

Contact details for the company are at the bottom of this article.

Mr McQueen says that last December a window did not ‘fall out’ – rather it was forced out because of two boys fighting, which he has CCTV evidence to prove.

He goes on to state:

  • The bus is fitted with CCTV which shows and records the speed it is travelling at any given time. If specific dates and times of the alleged speeding are provided, then the CCTV footage can be checked.
  • All PCV vehicles are subject to four-weekly inspections and annual testing while it is part of a PCV driver’s job to do a daily walk round check and fill out a daily defect slip. Should any problems be noted they are dealt with on an immediate basis.
  • A claim that the bus ‘goes round corners on three wheels’ is ‘absolute nonsense’, he says: “A double decker is designed to be able to tilt to 28 degrees with the top deck fully laden and the bottom deck empty before it will fall over. This is based on each passenger weighing 63.5kg. It is therefore impossible for the double decker to be travelling on three wheels whilst going round bends.”
  • Pupils were not ‘ordered off the bus because of snow’, he says: the driver was approaching the Mill Brae in white out conditions so made the correct and safe decision not to attempt to travel up the Mill Brae until a gritter arrived. At this point all children with phones were asked to phone their parents to advise them of the situation. Those without phones were offered the use of the driver’s phone. The council and the firm’s depot were kept informed of the situation at all times. Some parents with 4×4 vehicles chose to drive over and collect their children from the bus. “For clarity on who is responsible in these circumstances, I can only say that common sense should and did prevail, and the whole incident was dealt with in a totally professional manner,” he added.
  • Rather than ‘showing defects’, he says photographs in last week’s article only show sweets, crumbs, water and juice dropped by children, and a plastic bin which they had broken.
  • It is the duty of the council to maintain a road height of 14 “6” by law, Mr McQueen says: “However, this has been an ongoing issue since the contract began due to some landowners refusing permission to have their hedges and trees cut. I can report that the branches that do hit the roof are relatively small and we have fitted a tree guard to the roof to deflect them.”
  • Seatbelts are fitted to every seat and are subject to daily visual inspection together with a four-weekly full inspection. There is no mould as claimed and they are in no way stiff or awkward to use. They are lap belts which are fully retractable and require no adjustment. Mr McQueen advises parents that it is their child’s responsibility and a legal requirement for them to be used – although very few choose to adhere to this and the company cannot by law force them as it does not have the power to do so.
  • Condensation & dampness on wet days in the winter is unfortunately an inherent problem with all double deckers because if you have 60-plus wet people in a confined space it is going to create it. “We do wipe down and mop as much as we can, although it is an issue that will never be fully resolved on any double decker,” he added.
  • The company constantly monitors winds and on more than one occasion staff have chosen not to use the double decker in the interests of safety. This has not and will not change. Mr McQueen said: “In relation to accidents, in the two years we have been operating this contract any incidents have been of a minor nature i.e. mirror loss or minor scratching, and that is the way I hope it will stay. However, we all know that accidents can happen on any road in any type of vehicle and all we can do is maintain a safe and vigilant approach at all times.”
  • In response to the comments made at the meeting, there are no restrictions as to what vehicles can use the B833, while Mr McQueen says: “The contract was let correctly after a proper and legal tender exercise. If there is any evidence to prove otherwise, I look forward to receiving it.”
  • Concerning complaints that pupils arrived late at Hermitage Academy, Mr McQueen says: “There may have been a few occasions when the bus has run late, this has in the main been outwith our control, i.e. peace camp demonstrations, tailbacks on the northern access road at Coulport, accidents and roadworks. I would therefore urge any parent whose child has been marked late under these circumstances to contact the school who would in turn contact us for clarification that there was a delay and as such it was through no fault of there own and therefore should not be marked against them.”

He adds: “Whilst we are fully aware that in a perfect situation where the council had plenty of spare money to pay for a more expensive option and use two single deckers, this is highly unlikely to ever happen, given that their budgets are constantly being cut by central government.

“Ultimately this will always mean that they will always choose the cheapest option.”

The company can be emailed via enquiries@garelochheadcoaches.co.uk or parents can call 01436 810 200 – Mr McQueen says that anyone who answers the call will deal with it personally or pass it on to either him or his manager to respond to.

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