Don’t put a price on children’s safety, says mum of Northorpe crash victim

Kirsten James ,mum, with children Willow and Max at their Northorpe home
Kirsten James ,mum, with children Willow and Max at their Northorpe home

Best friends Willow James and Molly Williams are smiling again after a road accident that could have cost them their lives.

But Willow’s mother Kirsten has called on Lincolnshire County Council to rethink its free school transport policy so youngsters don’t have to walk alongside the road where the two girls were injured.

Bourne Academy Year 7 pupils Willow and Molly were left fighting for their lives after being hit by a minibus while crossing the A15 near their homes in Northorpe in January. The girls both suffered multiple fractures and broken bones and their parents were told they were lucky to be alive.

When the girls joined Bourne Academy in September their parents applied for free school transport from the county council. Molly was granted a free bus pass as her house is more than three miles away from the school, but Willow was denied one because she lives within three miles.

Mrs James appealed, saying the route alongside the A15 was unsafe for her daughter to walk on. But her appeal was rejected.

Now, with Willow almost back to full health after her tragic accident, Mrs James has urged the council to reconsider.

She said: “The girls are now at the point where I feel they can go back on the bus and it has come back as an issue.

“My point has been underlined by the whole incident. Numerous accidents have happened since. To expect an 11-year-old to walk along there is madness.”

She added: “I know budgets are tight but that’s almost putting a price on people’s safety.”

Willow and Molly were hit by the minibus after getting off the school bus on the way home. The bus stop is on the same side as the path leading to Bourne, meaning youngsters have to cross the busy road if they are walking to and from school.

Since the accident, campaigners have successfully persuaded the county council to lower the speed limit through Northorpe to 40mph. The council has also agreed to install a pedestrian crossing in the village.

But Mrs James believes the route will still be unsafe for children to walk on. She pointed to the case of Morton, also on the A15, where the council agreed to give free school transport to all residents regardless of distance from their school as the pavement alongside the road was unsuitable.

Mrs James said: “I have stood at the crossroads twice and had to jump out of the way of a car that has lost control and had to swerve. I have stood there and watched accidents happen. There is so much going on at that junction.

“I go to that road every day and see both of them lying there. The images will never leave my head.”

Mrs James currently takes Willow and Molly to and from school in the car. But they both want to join their friends on the bus to and from school.

Mrs James will not let her daughter use the bus stop on the A15 on her journey home, instead making her get off in the village itself so she doesn’t have to cross the busy road.

The county council’s school services manager David Robinson said free transport was only given to pupils who lived more than three miles away from their school

He added: “The authority spends over £25m a year transporting more than 22000 learners annually to their school or college. Limited funds and the challenging budget situation means that we cannot extend our help further.”

Mr Robinson said the council’s policy was “more generous than the statutory minimum requirements”.