Stand on school bus

ROSE CAWLEY
Last updated 05:00 26/02/2014
Students on bus
TIGHT SQUEEZE: Students line up for a bus home.
Carissa Walton and son Ryan
Rose Cawley
DRIVER DUTY: Carissa Walton started driving her son Ryan to the Elim Junior Campus after he had to stand on the bus for the entire journey home to Beachlands.

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Catching the bus was meant to be an exciting new experience for 5-year-old Ryan Walton.

Instead he ended up standing for the entire hour-long journey home to Beachlands from Elim Christian College Junior Campus.

His mum, Carissa, was dismayed to hear about the overcrowded bus when her boy got home. She is relieved Ryan didn't lose his footing and fall during the trip.

Ministry of Education-funded buses service Howick College, Sancta Maria College, Elim Christian College and Star of the Sea School.

Students at Howick College are eligible for ministry funded transport assistance from Beachlands and Maraetai because it's the closest secondary school to where they live.

The others are also eligible as special character schools.

Mrs Walton doesn't want Ryan taking the bus any more and instead drives to Botany with her two preschoolers in tow to pick him up from school. She believes the situation may even be unlawful in some cases.

"If children have to be over 148 centimetres to not be in a car seat when travelling in a car, then surely they shouldn't be standing in the aisle of a moving bus."

Elim Christian College deputy principal Gary Johnstone is aware of the problem. He says the law allows 37 secondary students to be seated on the bus serving his college with 21 standing.

Alternatively, it allows 54 intermediate or primary students to be seated and 24 to stand.

"The bus company does its best to adhere to this law, but is also mindful that parents would be very upset if students were to be left on the footpath."

Mr Johnstone says anyone standing in the aisle of a bus could be putting themselves and others in danger.

"No-one wants to be in a bus when a 200-kilogram adult comes hurtling down the aisle. The safest thing would be for safety belts to be required to be worn on all buses. This is the ideal, but is probably an unrealistic expectation for bus companies financially to install and for drivers to enforce."

Jerome Sheppard, Ministry of Education acting head of education infrastructure, says a review of student numbers is currently under way to prevent overcrowding.

"At the start of any school year we are aware that these particular routes must be monitored closely due to loading concerns."

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He says a bus was added to a route from Beachlands on February 5 to combat the problem.

"We added the bus because the existing bus had a maximum loading capacity of 70 passengers, and numbers were running at 64 a day.

"That gave little flexibility in the event of any extra passengers."

Howick & Eastern Buses manager Sheryll Otway says the company doesn't believe there are any issues around the Beachlands-Maraetai routes.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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