Level crossing horror for pupils

TERRIFIED children watched as their school bus ignored warnings on a level crossing and narrowly avoided being hit by a train.Pupils from Farlingaye High School were on board a double-decker bus that drove through a flashing red light at the crossing near Melton railway station on the East Suffolk rail line.

TERRIFIED children watched as their school bus ignored warnings on a level crossing and narrowly avoided being hit by a train.

Pupils from Farlingaye High School were on board a double-decker bus that drove through a flashing red light at the crossing near Melton railway station on the East Suffolk rail line.

A train was approaching the station and the driver had to sound his horn and brake to avoid a potentially disastrous collision with the bus.

The county council said the incident was so serious that it immediately took away the school contract from the bus operator, the Running Footman, and gave it to Ipswich Buses.

Pupils from the school, in Woodbridge, had finished lessons and were being taken to their homes in villages on the Wilford peninsular when the incident happened on Friday afternoon. It is believed the bus was packed with children.

Guy McGregor, the council's roads and transport portfolio holder, said: “We understand that a bus under contract to take pupils to Farlingaye High School was returning from the school just after 4pm and approached the Melton level crossing.

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“We understand that the red light warning of an approaching train was flashing but despite this the driver proceeded to go over.

“This caused the train driver to sound the horn and put on brakes to avoid an accident on the level crossing. We were informed about this by parents and we checked with Network Rail and British Transport Police that it had happened.

“There were a number of people on the train who saw what happened and the county council immediately ended the contract with the bus operator, the Running Footman, to take children on this route. It was immediately replaced by Ipswich Buses.”

Mr McGregor added that many parents were “horrified” by what had happened and the incident was being investigated by the British Transport Police.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “The train driver did not have to stop. But that does not lessen the fact that a bus driver crossed the level crossing on a red light which could have been highly serious.

“We take a dim view of trying to beat the lights - the consequences could have been fatal.”

He added that the level crossing was safe as long as motorists used it properly.

One Railway has been informed of the near miss and a spokeswoman said the bus driver had been wrong to try to jump the lights.

Farlingaye High School has not commented on the incident and the school has referred all inquiries to the county council.

The Running Footman bus company, based in Martlesham, was unavailable for comment last night.

n. Were you on the bus? Have you had a near miss in a school bus before? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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