A CAMPAIGNER is demanding action after spotchecks revealed faults in one in three school buses in Dorset.

Margaret Morrissey, of Parents Outloud, said the findings will ‘greatly concern’ parents and school governors.

Dorset Police carried out the checks with officers from the Vehicle and Operator Service Agency (VOSA) across the county.

Of the 61 school buses and minibuses which were inspected, 20 offences were found, ranging from lack of required ‘school bus’ signage and an expiration date on emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers and first aid supplies.

Inspectors also found eight taxis and private hire cars committing offences connected with lighting and tyres out of 14 vehicles that were checked.

Four of the buses were ordered to be taken off the road if the issues were not fixed within 10 days.

Dorset County Council is responsible for school transport, though most services are contracted out to a number of companies.

A spokesperson for Damory, which runs a number of school bus services in Dorset, confirmed that they owned three of the vehicles found to have problems.

The spokesperson said: “Passenger safety is our absolute top priority and we are proud of our vehicles – with rigorous maintenance checks and processes in place to ensure they continue to operate in top condition.

“Despite being given 10 days by VOSA to comply with the notices, these vehicles were taken immediately and checked.

“Any mechanical imperfections, no matter how small, were rectified.”

Mrs Morrissey said: “I do think that of all the vehicles that need to be regularly and highly maintained, school transport should be top of the agenda.

“I would hope Dorset County Council can give a reason for this and assure us that vehicles are regularly checked.”

A spokesman for Dorset County Council said: “At the beginning of March, Dorset County Council supported VOSA and Dorset Police in carrying out checks on school transport vehicles and drivers at schools around the county.

“These are random checks carried out on a regular basis to ensure the proper maintenance of vehicles and the safety of school pupils.

“On this occasion, some vehicles were found to have minor failings. Most of these were resolved very quickly on site, and the remainder were fixed within 24 hours of the inspections.”

Road casualty reduction co-ordinator PC Heidi Moxam said: “The aim of the day was to identify those vehicles that are not complying with legislation in a bid to make the roads of Dorset safer.”

Issues previously raised

THE damning inspection follows a number of issues when Dorset County Council awarded the school bus contract to Damory in 2011.

At the same time the authority hiked the price of a concessionary ticket from £250 to £400.

A report into the problems found that not all drivers were checked for criminal offences, that Damory did not have enough drivers or depot space and that drivers were not given passenger lists by DCC, so no one knew how many children should be on each bus.

In another incident, a school bus caught fire outside the Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester in December last year.

Pupils were evacuated as around 15 firefighters battled the blaze on the Damory coach.