Snow strands autistic teens in Harold Hill - but council says roads were gritted

Havering’s first snowfall stranded a busload of autistic teenagers in Harold Hill.

Despite the council gritting bus routes overnight, five services running through the borough were suspended between 7.30am and 10am because of snow and ice on the roads.

Among those affected were young autistic people making their way to Havering College’s specialist Quarles Campus – including at least one busload who were told to exit the bus mid-journey, causing distress and confusion.

Mandy Moon’s 16-year-old daughter Tamara was among those stranded.

“That one bus is the main inlet and outlet for that college,” said Ms Moon, 39. “There were 40 or 50 people on that bus and I imagine most of them were heading into college at that time of the morning.”

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Tamara, of Marks Road, Romford, was with a “travel trainer” to help her learn independence when getting around.

“The bus stopped just after 8am,” said Ms Moon. “My daughter and her travel trainer didn’t get back to Romford until 10.30am. It was ridiculous.

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“Even though the travel trainer said, ‘This child has autism – she’s panicking,’ they were just told the buses had been suspended and were going back to their yard.

“We had the panic of: ‘How am I getting home?’”

A Transport for London spokesman said the decision to shut routes was made after drivers radioed back to their head office about poor conditions. TfL then sent someone out to assess the area and informed Havering Council about the problem.

But the council denied its gritting department had been contacted by TfL, adding it had gritted all the borough’s bus routes twice in the run-up to the bad weather.

Ms Moon complained the driver had not responded with understanding of her daughter’s condition.

“They have no compassion at all,” she said. “I don’t know whether the bus company educate drivers about learning disabilities – because my daughter absolutely panicked.”

London Buses’ operations head Ken Davidson said: “Adverse weather conditions affected some bus services early today in Romford and Chigwell with routes 174, 175, 294, 365 and 496 being diverted or curtailed early as some roads became impassable.

“We apologise to passengers for any inconvenience.”

He added: “TfL takes the issue of accessibility very seriously. Each bus driver must achieve a BTEC vocational award that includes an accessibility module.

“We would encourage passengers to contact us on 0845 300 7000 if they aren’t happy with the service provided.”

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