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Coroner Simon Milburn writes to Department for Transport calling for action over seatbelt use on buses six years after fatal crash on A47 Guyhirn where Swaffham driver was killed





A coroner has urged the Department for Transport to “take action” six years after a bus crash on the A47 which resulted in the death of the driver and one of its passengers.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area coroner Simon Milburn voiced his concerns about the lack of seatbelts on buses after a double-decker bus collided with a Scania lorry on the A47 between Thorney and Guyhirn in 2018.

The driver of the bus, Michael Elcombe, 45, of Cley Road, Swaffham, Norfolk, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Bus driver Michael Elcombe and passenger Brian Chapman were both killed in the crash which happened in 2018 at Guyhirn.
Bus driver Michael Elcombe and passenger Brian Chapman were both killed in the crash which happened in 2018 at Guyhirn.

A bus passenger, Brian Chapman, 76, of Cherry Road, Kettering, also died after the collision left him with "multiple traumatic injuries".

The crash took place on June 26, 2018 near Bretts Transport, with an inquest held at Peterborough Town Hall last year hearing that Mr Elcombe had suffered from a”microsleep” while behind the wheel.

A total of 17 other people were also injured in the crash.

The crashed happened outside of Bretts Transport, which is located off the A47 at Guyhirn.
The crashed happened outside of Bretts Transport, which is located off the A47 at Guyhirn.

In a letter written by Mr Milburn to the Department for Transport, he said: “In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths could occur unless action is taken.”

Mr Milburn stated that the bus was travelling an 80-mile route from Peterborough to Norwich and that the bus was not fitted with seatbelts for passengers.

He added in the letter: “I am concerned where buses are undertaking journeys such as this through predominantly rural locations and subject to the national speed limit without seatbelts being required there is an obvious risk of death to passengers if collisions occur, particularly at high speed.

“Whilst there was no evidence that either death would have been prevented by the wearing of seatbelts a number of other passengers were injured in the collision.”

Mr Milburn urged the Department for Transport to “take action” to prevent further deaths and injuries from occurring in future.

Since 2001, Government regulations require all new buses to have seatbelts. However, exemptions apply for buses used in urban areas that have standing passengers.

Rt Hon Mark Harper MP, secretary of state for transport has replied to Mr Milburn, stating that travelling by bus in the UK is “one of the safest modes of road transport” after offering his condolences to Mr Chapman’s family.

In his response, he said: “Overall, we believe the existing regulatory framework is appropriate as it harmonises vehicle construction with the wider international community and provides proportionate safeguards whilst ensuring the legislative landscape is sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of the local community.

“This ensures the economic viability and sustainability of bus services, which in turn supports social inclusion and the local economy, particularly in rural areas.”

The letter concluded: “My officials will write immediately to the CPT, the trade body which represents bus and coach operators, highlighting the importance for their members in selecting appropriate vehicles based on the type of bus service operated, including full consideration of using only vehicles fitted with seat belts.

“At that same time they will also write to the Office of the Traffic Commissioner to raise awareness of this issue.”



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