A COACH firm suspended from two school runs after a wheel fell off one of its buses had a similar mishap involving a city bowling club, it was claimed today.
Currie Bowling Club member Hugh Thomson said the wheel came off a coach hired from McKendry Coaches as it drove players back to Port Seton from a tournament in Newcastle.
Mr Thomson, 47, spoke of a “near tragedy” in which the wheel on the vehicle appeared to collapse at the Aytoun junction of the A1 last September, but Loanhead-based McKendry Coaches today denied the wheel had come off and said the incident was simply a breakdown.
Mr Thomson, an accountant from Currie, said: “It was late morning and we were coming back up from Newcastle.
“We noticed there was smoke coming in through the bottom of the bus. We were starting to cough with the smoke and asked the driver to stop. He said because the bus had had some maintenance it would just be the grease burning off.”
Mr Thomson said the driver pulled in for ten minutes before setting off again.
“We had just pulled away when there was a loud bang and the bus lurched in to the left and the wheel just fell off.
“The driver phoned McKendry for a recovery vehicle and about an hour later it came and picked us up. He was very apologetic, he knew nothing about the mechanics of it.”
Last week the Evening News reported that McKendry Coaches, which is used to transport pupils for Edinburgh City Council, had been suspended from two school contracts in the Borders after a bus carrying pupils lost a wheel while driving from Peebles High to West Linton last Wednesday.
Today Anne McKendry, one of the firm’s transport managers, denied there was any maintenance problem with the coach carrying the bowling club.
She said: “It was a wheel bearing failure, which could happen to anybody – in a car, a coach – and it is just classed as a breakdown.
“The police obviously didn’t think it was anything to do with maintenance otherwise they would have contacted the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (Vosa).
“Nobody was hurt, and a wheel did not come off the bus. It was the hub that collapsed.”
But Mr Thomson said: “It’s really worrying and I certainly would not use that firm again.
“If it had not been for the fact the smoke had come it could have been different. If the coach had been travelling at 60, it could have killed someone else if it had ran in to another vehicle.
“After it had happened, we all felt pretty lucky.”
No children were hurt in the school bus incident last Wednesday, which was attended by police and is being investigated by Vosa.
Scottish Borders Council has suspended two contracts run by McKendry Coaches. Edinburgh City Council has written to the company to remind it of its contractual obligations but has not suspended any of its school contracts.
Last month the firm had two of its vehicles, used for school contracts in Edinburgh and the Borders, banned from the road for six months after they were found to be poorly maintained. McKendry Coaches was also found guilty of breaching its licence conditions.
A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said: “We can confirm that we attended an incident of a broken down vehicle at the junction with Aytoun on the A1.”
Vosa could not find any record of last September’s incident.