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Bexley: Client safety fears over condition of council minibuses

PUBLISHED: 15:40 28 October 2011

Malcolm and his son Ian Kirkup

Malcolm and his son Ian Kirkup

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Bexley council is using ageing vehicles to take adults with learning disabilities to day centres, according to a carer. Malcolm Kirkup, 80, of Beechcroft Avenue, Barnehurst, whose son uses the Bexley Accessible Transport Scheme (BATS) service every day found out that one of the doors of a vehicle had come off its hinges during a recent incident.

Following several complaints he made and calls by the Times, Bexley council confirmed there were plans to start using four minibuses to replace the five “much older” vehicles that are currently in operation.

Mr Kirkup, whose son is partly autistic and attends the Smerdon day centre in Barnehurst five days a week, said: “They are running dangerous vehicles picking up our children. I’ve been hearing of problems for quite a long time and quite frankly it’s worrying.

“Passengers’ lives and those of the drivers are being put in jeopardy every time the vehicles go on the road.

“The vehicles shouldn’t get into this state before something is done about it. They should not be using vehicles which aren’t serviceable to use on the roads.”

The incident, happened while outside another client’s home before it was due to pick up Mr Kirkup’s son.

Mr Kirkup contacted the council and was told that the damage had been caused by a passenger.

However, Bexley council has since confirmed that passenger escorts open and close the doors and at no point would a customer be able to stand and walk to the doors without the escort noticing their actions.

Mr Kirkup: “For BATS to blame one of the passengers is totally wrong.”

A spokesman for the council added: “All of the vehicles used for transporting adult social care clients are subject to a standard 10 weekly safety checks, a full service every 12 months and interim service every six months. Any reactive repairs are carried out as soon as possible to enable the vehicle to return to the road.

“From November 1, four ‘new’ BATS minibuses will be in operation. These will replace the five much older vehicles that are currently being used.

“We know that some users have recently had concerns about the condition of the much older vehicles and we have invested in replacement vehicles after listening to their concerns.”

One BATS vehicle which is currently on the road was registered in 1999 and four were registered in 2006.

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