Newcastle Herald: Kids left stranded
A SCHOOL bus that failed to arrive in Wallsend this week has left parents fuming, politicians bickering and the bus company scrambling to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Samuel Beattie, Ella Jones, and Alanah O’Leary were among dozens of students left without a lift on Wednesday from Callaghan College’s Wallsend Campus.
Ella’s mother Magdalena, a swim teacher, said her daughter would have been stranded longer had her father not been closer than usual at that time.
“It just didn’t turn up,” she said. “I think it’s terrible, I think it just shouldn’t have happened.
“I know people make mistakes but you’ve got a bunch of kids waiting for a way home. You can’t make mistakes with stuff like this.”
Ms Jones said Keolis Downer told her they would respond to her complaint within 7-10 days, but she received a call saying they were looking into it.
Samuel’s mother Tracey said Keolis Downer had been helpful afterwards but the no-show on the first day of school would have her concerned daily. She also said the new timetable meant her older son, William, could only catch a bus that delivered him to Jesmond 10 minutes into his first lesson and a lack of suitable services meant he had to walk home to Shortland. “They’re children” she said. “They shouldn’t be left to their own devices to get home.
“It’s the safety aspect, not knowing if they are going to be late to get home or if that bus is even going to turn up.”
Tony O’Leary said he at first thought Alanah had simply missed the bus when she called him at 4pm. “One of the teachers actually ran three kids home,” he said.
“She can get to her grandparents’ pretty easily, but it’s more about the kids that haven’t got any alternatives,” he said.
A Department of Education spokesman confirmed three students were driven home by a staff member with the parents’ prior agreement.
Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery called for Transport Minister Andrew Constance to step aside and Premier Gladys Berejiklian to intervene. “This takeover and privatisation of the public transport network in Newcastle has been a complete and utter failure,” Ms Hornery said.
Keolis Downer general Mark Dunlop said the firm took responsibility and would accept any consequences “under the terms of our contract”.
“I contacted the Callaghan College vice principal personally as soon as the failure came to light to apologise to parents and students impacted,” he said.
“We are working hard to understand the cause of the problem in order to ensure that there is no repeat in future.”