Stagecoach is investigating after one of its drivers was accused of interrogating two school girls on a bus on Thursday afternoon (October 18).
Hannah Grant complained to Stagecoach after her 13-year-old daughter Eleanor arrived home in tears following a bus journey home from an after school club, in which she and another girl were wrongly accused of trying to cheat the bus company by using incorrect passes.
Hannah, whose daughter goes to the Regis School, said: "My daughter left school when her after-school careers club finished and she walked to the bus stop on Aldwick Road by the Martlets roundabout to catch the bus home to Pagham using her school bus pass, as usual.
"The bus pulled up, my daughter and one other girl got on the bus (and) they both showed their West Sussex County Council bus passes."
Hannah said the girls then suffered 'interrogation' from the bus driver, who accused them of 'trying to lie and cheat the bus company by using incorrect passes'.
Hannah said the girls tried to explain their passes were supplied to them at the start of the year by the county council via the school and they have always used them 'without a problem', but claimed the driver kept 'talking over them'.
Hannah added: "A fellow passenger offered to pay for a ticket for both the girls. The bus driver replied that he could not allow a member of the public to pay for tickets for children who were clearly trying to cheat the system."
When Hannah's daughter went to get off the bus, she said the driver said they could travel this time, as maybe they had learnt their lesson now and would not try it on again.
"Both my daughter and the other girl then had to listen to the rest of the bus talk about how disgraceful they both were the whole way home," she said
Hannah said the 'unfortunate and upsetting' incident has left her daughter 'frightened, upset and has greatly knocked her confidence'.
Edward Hodgson, Stagecoach managing director, offered an apology for the standard of customer service, which he said 'falls well below our usual high standards'.
He added: "We are aware of the complaint regarding the 600 service and the use of a West Sussex Bus Pass and we thank our customer for providing full information which has allowed us to quickly identify the bus journey in question.
"We are conducting an investigation to fully understand what went wrong on this occasion and we will be taking action to prevent repetition.
"West Sussex Council bus passes are used by large numbers of students to travel to and from school and we were so sorry to hear of this poor experience using such a pass on one of our buses. We will be responding fully to the family involved very shortly."
Hannah said the county council, the school as well as the wider community have a 'duty of care' to ensure children can travel safely to school using public transport without 'fear of threat and intimidation'.