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School buses: Concerns over risk of Covid-19 spread among pupils on busy services from Canterbury

A dad concerned about the spread of coronavirus on his son’s “packed” school bus is calling for safer transport for pupils.

James Barham, an asthmatic father who lives in Aylesham, says his son’s bus home from Canterbury is so full that pupils have to stand in the aisles, while many are not wearing masks.

School pupils crowding to leave the bus in the afternoon
School pupils crowding to leave the bus in the afternoon

People are now legally required to wear face coverings when using public transport, while government guidance says users should reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19 by keeping a distance of at least one metre if possible.

But Mr Barham's son David, who is in his first year at The Archbishop’s School, says youngsters are “squished together” on buses home.

Along with many other pupils, the 11-year-old catches a bus from school to Canterbury bus station, before changing to a service that takes him home.

“It’s packed,” he said. “There’s basically no room. People are piling on, standing up near the front. All the seats are full. I was sitting on a seat on my own, and people just moved my bag and sat next to me.”

He says the bus, which is already crowded upon leaving the city centre, also stops near secondary schools in Old Dover Road, Canterbury , where more pupils board.

Youngsters can be seen standing in the aisles without face masks
Youngsters can be seen standing in the aisles without face masks

“Not all of them wear face masks,” he added.

His dad is calling for bus firm Stagecoach to limit the number of passengers on board.

“It’s scary,” he said. “They mix with people from other schools on the bus. They could have Covid and pass it back to parents.

"My son is in bubbles at school and they’re only allowed to stay together, but then when it comes to home time they’re all bunged on the bus from his school to the bus depot. Then the crowd inside the bus station is horrendous.”

After KentOnline raised Mr Barham’s concerns with Stagecoach, the firm said it would visit to check on the service.

Canterbury Bus Station
Canterbury Bus Station

A spokesman said: “We’re working closely with the county council to do everything to safely transport children to and from school. Every available bus we have is out on the road and we’ve made arrangements with other coach operators to provide extra vehicles on busier routes.

“There are two bus options for children returning to Aylesham from school. One of these is supplemented with a coach operated by Lehane Travel in order to provide extra capacity.

“One of the big challenges we face this September is anticipating where demand will be and allocating resources to meet the requirements. "This September is particularly complex because we don’t know in advance how many children will be using buses who haven’t applied for a KCC Travel Saver bus pass.”

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