MAJOR safety concerns have been raised about Morpeth Bus Station during 15 minutes of school-run mayhem.
Morpeth Town Council has been urged to press for action in tackling the problems when school and service buses come together each afternoon, with vehicles struggling to find bays and passengers walking between them.
The authority received a letter from a member of the public concerned about the safety risk, and Coun Dave Herne, who is a bus driver, said his colleagues are equally alarmed.
“When the school buses come in for a 15-minute period from 3.30pm to 3.45pm each day, it is just Bedlam down there,” he said.
“Service buses can’t get onto the stands because the school buses are waiting to pick the kids up. It is just a complete nightmare.
“Someone wrote to the council saying they thought it was dangerous that people were walking across the bus station trying to get on and off the buses, and the drivers feel the same.
“The last thing we want is anyone walking across the bus station.
“You don’t want someone coming from behind your bus when you’re reversing out, or stepping in front of your bus. It could be very dangerous.
“Some of the smaller school buses are parking one behind the other.
“Then you have kids walking down the side of one bus to get to the other, which should never happen.
“It is 15 minutes of madness.”
Coun Herne said the bus station has always been tight for space, but the problems have intensified during work to Morpeth’s new NHS ‘super centre’ as contractors are parking in a lay-by that was previously used by school buses.
He said: “It has been a problem since the new bus station opened because there is less room now than there was in the old bus station, which had a longer area for the vehicles to park.
“It is worse at the moment because of the building work on the health centre, which means the school buses can’t get in the layby and have to come into the bus station.
“It’s not the same in the morning because the buses just drop the kids off and they’re away, but in the afternoon they are coming in and waiting for the kids and it is the period of waiting that causes the problems.”
The bus driver says there needs to be more management of the station during the busy spell.
“Obviously, it needs managing,” he said.
“We need someone there who will be able to take control of the situation and tell drivers where to go and when to go. It needs someone there to get buses into the correct spaces,” he said.
“This should be the responsibility of the owner. The bus stand is like an airport in that there is a nominal charge for using it. If companies are paying a charge then it should be managed.
“These problems were addressed by the county council briefly in the past, but they have crept back in.
“During that period of complete madness we need someone to stop people from walking over the bus station.
“Really people should know better and there are two large signs on the bus station that say ‘no pedestrians’, but we still get people walking over. People can be impatient and will try to get on or off the bus wherever it is.
“Although it is just a 15-minute period each day, that 15-minute period causes a lot of grief to a lot of people.”
The bus station building is owned by Dransfield Properties, but the vehicle area is the responsibility of Northumberland County Council.
Members of Morpeth Town Council’s Planning and Transport Committee were concerned to hear of the safety fears and agreed to write to Dransfield Properties and the county council to seek a resolution.
Coun Les Cassie said: “We should be writing to Dransfield from the town council expressing concern about the safety risk to passengers and other members of the public, and we should also write to the county council.
“Ideally, there should be a meeting. The gentleman from the council who is responsible for safety, the drivers and the bus companies should sit down together and decide what is a sensible way to deal with this.”
Dransfield Properties spokeswoman Amanda Holmes said such a meeting has been scheduled.
“We have got a meeting organised to discuss these issues,” she said.
“We are aware that there is an issue when the school buses come in. They are perhaps coming earlier than necessary so the waiting period is longer and the regular buses then come, so it is causing some problems in terms of the amount of buses that are there.
“What has to happen is a meeting between all the parties involved — the bus operators, the county council, ourselves and the town council — to identify a way around it.
“We don’t know whether the loss of the lay-by has displaced buses that would go there if they arrive early.
“All these issues need addressing and we will be taking part in those discussions.”
A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council said: “We are aware of the issues raised and will be working with all parties concerned to try to find solutions that might help to ease the congestion.”