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A GROUP of nursery children were left in tears after having to get off a bus taking them on a school trip – for being short of one 70p fare.

The six Wardie Nursery pupils, all aged three, were heading on an outing to the Royal Botanic Garden, accompanied by two staff members.

But despite the children all falling within the age bracket for free bus travel, the nursery staff were told they would have to pay for two of them as Lothian Buses policy states that only two children per adult can travel for free. The unexpected charge meant the staff only managed to scrape together enough change for one of the children – so they claim they were told they would have to get off the bus if they could not pay the fare.

The bus company insists the driver was following policy and had offered to allow the group to pay with a note and then claim the change at a later date. But nursery manager Suzanne Adie, who accompanied the children on the trip, said she was furious at the way the situation was handled and believes the driver should have used his discretion to allow them to travel.

She said: “We went on the bus and paid for two adults and assumed the under-fives would be free as usual, but apparently you can only take two on per adult for free.

“We had no change and he said we would have to get off.

“We scraped together enough money for one child, but he still said we would need to get off because we didn’t have both fares.

“When we had to get off the bus, some of the children were crying, they were really upset. We would have expected the driver to say that this is the policy and you will have to pay in future, but on this occasion you can get on.”

After getting off the No 8 bus, the staff got some change and then waited for the next bus. They then had to pay their fares again after the driver refused to take their tickets from their previous aborted journey.

Ms Adie said: “We are a charity so we can’t afford to waste money like that.

“The children were very upset and distressed and we had to explain the whole situation to their parents. They ended up only getting ten minutes on their outing, when they should have got 45 minutes, because we basically got there then had to come straight back.

“I feel very angry about the situation. It’s quite a discriminatory policy that if you have three children under five, you have to pay for one of them.”

Lothian Buses said the driver was not rude to the nursery staff and that he offered to give them an overpayment slip if they paid for the fares with a note so they could reclaim their change from the company.

Ian Craig, managing director of Lothian Buses said: “The incident in question was captured on bus CCTV which includes voice recording and there remains considerable discrepancy between the events accounted and those reviewed.

“We are very sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused. However, our rules of carriage have always remained the same and a maximum of two children under five can travel free of charge with one adult.”