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Disabled girl thrown off bus in Worcester after ticket confusion
A DISABLED girl was left stranded on the side of the road when a bus driver refused to accept her bus pass and refused her travel.
Sophie King was on her way to Worcester Sixth Form College when she tried to get on the number 44 bus in Malvern Road, in St John’s, Worcester, at 7.45am on Wednesday, September 11.
However, the bus driver said her pass, a 24/7 card, was not valid for travel before 9.30am and would not let her on.
And although there is some confusion about the use of her travel card, which should have been replaced when she turned 16, bus company First Group said the company has a policy of carrying vulnerable people to safety, even if there is a disagreement over ticketing.
Steve Zankar, general manager at First Group travel for Worcester, said: “All I can say is we accept that this has occurred.
“The driver is aware of our practices and this won’t happen again.
“It is totally in our interest that we carry every passenger, so it is not in our interest to leave people without travel.”
But Maria Evans, Sophie’s mother, said she was angry about the incident. “I found her in a heap, sobbing at the kerbside, because she didn’t know what to do,” she said.
“She’s used it [the pass] for the last week on her way to college and not had a problem. She’s had it for almost five years now.
“She is on and off the buses because I encourage her to be independent.”
Sophie, who has been partially sighted since she was five years old, also has life-long Asperger’s syndrome, which requires medication to help her in day-to-day situations.
“Sophie felt humiliated and frightened, she was very vulnerable and distressed,” Mrs Evans said.
“She was most upset she was not able to get to her first lesson. Routine and structure is paramount to her daily life.”
Until Sophie left the Chantry School this summer, the pass had been a 24-hour pass according to the council, to help her get to school, but after her 16th birthday the restrictions of use on the concessionary pass between 9.30am and 11pm had been placed on it without the knowledge of either her or her mother, creating the confusion.
And Mr Zankar said he understood the mix-up.
“Because of the transfer from under 16 to over 16 it does get a bit confusing,” he said. “Someone at the local depot spoke to the driver himself and as far as we can see the pass was not valid before 9.30am and he obviously made this clear to the passenger.
“The passenger then asked if she had to pay and we said ‘yes’ because it wasn’t vaild.
“We’re unsure of what happened at that point, whether there was an altercation or not because the girl did not travel on the bus.”
First Group buses allows children, or any vulnerable person needing travel, on to the bus if they provide their name and address for an invoice to be sent to at a later date to ensure they are not left stranded, he said.