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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
School run begins in US style
Pupils board First yellow school bus
First says its scheme makes travel safer for pupils
American-style yellow school buses are taking to the roads in the latest drive to improve safety.

More than 1,000 pupils from eight schools in Wrexham will board the vehicles - imported from the United States - on their first official school run.

The scheme is the first of its kind in Wales and was introduced after concerns were raised over the standard of service provided.

Child in school bus window
Different colour buses are loved by some
Built across the Atlantic, the Blue Bird buses have already been introduced for pupils in West Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Surrey.

Students at the further education Yale College in Wrexham are also getting on board in what is said to be the UK's biggest roll-out of the vehicles to date.

The town's local authority has contracted train and bus operator First to run the scheme.

But Welsh safety campaigners say the vehicles lack a number of vital features and are not as safe as the company claims.

Safety complaint

Pat Harris, founder of the Belt Up School Kids (BUSK) group, complained: "The safety of these yellow buses has been compromised to save money.

"Parents should ask their transport provider how 60 children are going to get out of this yellow bus if it does roll onto its side.

"The windows in the yellow bus do not meet the legal requirements of an emergency exit in the UK."

Wrexham buses
Ysgol Bryn Offa
Bryn Alyn
The Groves
Darland School
Ysgol Castell Alun
Maelor School
Ysgol Morgan Llwyd

But First - a leading transport provider in the UK with 23% market share and a major player in the US - insists the new door-to-school system will improve child safety.

The company claims the "yellow bus is a symbol of safety and security".

'Safest form'

Company chief executive Moir Lockhead said spoke of "clearly identifiable benefits to home-to-school transport" offered by her new fleet and hinted at further announcements to come.

The firm said education and transport ministers had given First the green light for its vehicles. Its website claims: "Safety is of paramount importance in everything we do.

First yellow bus
The buses are a familiar sight on US streets
"We believe that the yellow school bus offers the safest, most reliable way to transport children to and from school."

Under the new system, drivers of the buses will be in telephone contact with a control room in Wrexham.

Parents will be able to contact the control room and check whether or not their child will be travelling on the bus.

War-time origin

First have said the concept means the school day begins from the moment the student boards the bus, and ends when the student leaves the bus upon arrival home.

In a report in 2000, the US School Bus Information Council claimed children using a yellow bus were 87 times safer than those who were driven by parents, walked or used a bicycle.

The buses were first introduced in 1939 when US state officials, school leaders, and bus engineers met to adopt safety standards across America.

The shade of yellow was specifically chosen for the buses and became known as National School Bus Chrome.

More news from north east Wales
See also:

13 Jun 00 | Americas
08 Aug 01 | UK Education
02 Dec 01 | Wales
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