A FURIOUS mum has blasted a bus company for allowing a driver in an unmarked car to pick her schoolgirl daughter up from a bus stop when the timetabled service failed to turn up.
Elle McAllister had gone to wait for the 7.13am number 1 Stagecoach bus from Seaton Lane, in Hartlepool, to get her to Dyke House Sports and Technology College on the other side of town.
When the bus failed to turn up – as it has done on several occasions over the past few weeks – a plain car being driven by a man wearing a Stagecoach jacket turned up at the bus stop.
The driver said he had been sent to transport any stricken passengers to their destinations as the bus service was not running.
So 11-year-old Elle and an older lady, who she did not know, got in the car and after dropping the woman off in the town centre, the driver carried on to Elle’s school.
Elle’s mum, Gillian Henderson, 32, texted her daughter at about 7.20am to check that the bus had turned up as its failure to turn up over recent days made her late for school.
And the mum-of-two got a shock when Elle phoned her back to tell her that the bus hadn’t turned up, but she was in a car with a man travelling to school.
Stagecoach chiefs apologised for any “distress” but insisted the firm was acting in good faith to reduce any inconvenience for passengers.
Gillian, who is also mum to Leo McAllister, six, said: “I texted her to see if she’d got on the bus, and she phoned me to say she was in the car with this man.
“I’ve told her never to get in cars with anybody, I was past myself. She just said that the man had a Stagecoach jacket on and said that because the bus wasn’t going to turn up then he’d been sent to take people to where they needed to go, and was taking her to school.
“He did take her to school, but that’s not the point. You don’t expect your 11-year-old daughter to ring saying she’s in a car with a strange man going to school.
“I was totally panicking. I rang her dad and we stayed on the phone to her until she got to school.”
Gillian claims this incident, which took place on Wednesday morning, is the latest in a string of gaffes by the bus company whose number 1 service has failed to turn up on numerous occasions since roadworks in Brenda Road altered its usual route.
She said Elle used to have to wait for the bus in Brenda Road opposite the car showroom, but when the roadworks started near to the Belle Vue roundabout, passengers were told to wait for the service in Seaton Lane, opposite Golden Flatts Primary School.
Gillian, who forks out £7.80 a week for Elle’s bus pass, says she has lost count of the number of times the bus has failed to turn up meaning she then has to pay for taxis to get her daughter to school.
She said: “Elle’s been late for school so many times that I don’t think the school believes me now when I ring up and tell them that the bus hasn’t turned up again.
“It’s just been one thing after another, and now this with her getting in a strange car. It needs sorting out.”
A spokeswoman for Stagecoach North East said: “The buses are following a diversion due to the roadworks and this is causing significant delays. On this occasion the driver unfortunately made a mistake in his route and missed the stop.
“Once the supervisory staff were made aware, and as there was no spare bus immediately available, one of the team took a Stagecoach pool car and went to the stop to offer assistance to the waiting passengers who would be otherwise affected.
“The driver was in uniform and carrying his company ID. We appreciate why this caused concern but would say that our member of staff was acting in good faith, to try and avoid inconvenience to our customers. We have been in contact directly with our customer’s mother and we apologise for any distress this caused her.”