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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 March, 2005, 17:53 GMT
Children 'should belt up on bus'
Stuart Cunningham-Jones
Stuart Cunningham-Jones died in a bus crash in 2002
Every child on a school bus in Wales should wear a seatbelt, a Welsh assembly committee has recommended.

New safety provisions such as the phasing out of double decker buses and installing CCTV have also been suggested.

The swathe of safety measures have been welcomed by David Cunningham-Jones, whose son Stuart died in a bus crash.

Councils would be responsible for acting on the recommendations and may need extra money from the assembly.

Mr Cunningham-Jones said he wanted assurances they will be enforced.

We have seen accidents that have happened, that our children are at risk
David Cunningham-Jones

The assembly's education committee has been looking into safety on school transport since April, with Wednesday's report the final stage in the process.

Putting more adult escorts on board, staggering school start and finish times to make sharing buses easier and supervising places where children are picked up are also among the recommendations.

As well as double-deckers, buses aged more than15 years should also be phased out, the committee said.

Stuart Cunningham-Jones, 12, was on his way home from school to the village of Ystradowen in the Vale of Glamorgan when the bus he was on veered off the road and hit a tree in December 2002.

The schoolboy, who was on the top deck, died at the scene and 30 of the 72 Cowbridge Comprehensive School pupils on board were injured.

In June 2003, it was decided there was not enough evidence to charge anyone.

'Very frustrating'

An inquest in 2004 found that the driver may have been distracted by some pupils. Stuart's parents, David and Jo, set up Stuart's Campaign to push for improved safety on buses.

Among their aims are installing a seatbelt for every child, bringing an end to three children per seat, introducing CCTV and clarifying laws relating to the transport of children.

Mr Cunningham-Jones said he congratulated the committee members on their report but said it was "very frustrating" that it had taken more than two years to reach this point.

"We have seen accidents that have happened, that our children are at risk. For us it's just common sense, the things we are proposing," he said.

He added that were "still one or two areas which are left grey".

Law call

Those included the recommendations not applying to children on "hybrid" bus services - where local education authorities (LEAs) buy seats on commercial routes - a lack of compulsory supervision on all school buses, and a five-year rather than immediate phasing out of double deckers.

Mr Cunningham-Jones also raised concerns that the suggested measures "are just draft guidelines, they aren't compulsory or legal standards which LEAs would have to follow", and called on the assembly to ensure they became law.

He said: "Everybody has to know where they stand. It will only get resolved when the Government puts it in legislation."

John Pockett, of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, said that one of the recommendations, which bus companies had put forward, was that contracts for operating school buses should be lengthened.

He said: "The average is around three years but in order to invest in a high quality, hi-spec' bus, which can cost 100,000 or more, operators would expect longer contracts - we suggested up to seven years."

Welsh Liberal Democrat education spokesman Peter Black said he hoped the assembly's guidance would bring improvements.

"We don't have the powers to force local authorities or bus contractors to do any of this," he said.

"We are setting out a range of guidelines and trying to bring clarity to the issue. I'm fairly confident that the advice and guidance will lead to changes over a short period of time."



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