AN investigation has been launched after a school bus carrying Peebles High pupils caught fire this week.

Although no one was injured, one student has told of a sense of rising panic as the drama unfolded – with pupils travelling from West Linton being evacuated from the P15 bus at around 8.15am on Monday. 

Parts of the A701 near West Linton were closed and traffic was diverted via Macbiehill and Bogsbank road while the emergency services were in attendance.

The student, who asked not to be named, told the Peeblesshire News: “At a stop just outside of West Linton, I heard someone at the back of the bus say that they could smell smoke and they also started to see smoke on the outside.

"Someone dismissed it, saying it was just the exhaust fumes, but then the bus driver quickly stood up and got off the bus to check.

“By this point, there was smoke surrounding the back of the bus, so the driver ran back on and told us to get off quickly. So we made our way to the front and I could feel the back heating up at a rapid rate and began to panic.

“When we were all off the bus, the driver made sure we were all at a safe distance but we were standing in the road still. He then called the fire service, the school and Barc [bus hire company] to inform them of the situation.

“We were all watching the bus at this point and I could see lots of smoke coming from the back and every now and then a flame would appear above the bus.

“Then, after about ten minutes, there was a small explosion, which I think could have been one of the tyres or the back window but I could not see.

“Then, another bang followed which I think was another tyre or a side window.

“Lots of cars had appeared along the road and turned around as they couldn’t get through.

“After 15 minutes the Fire Brigade arrived and put out the fire. They also came round and asked us if everyone was okay and that we weren’t injured.

“We were all safe but had breathed in some of the gas and smoke from the bus.

“Then a kind local invited us into their house and turned on the TV so we could keep out from the rain and cold.

“We then got moved to another person’s house where we were counted.

“Around an hour later, our deputy head arrived to see the situation and a text was sent out to our parents saying ‘Peebles HS bus company advised p15 broken down trying to sort problem asap’.

“After arriving at school, we were asked to go straight to the assembly hall for a ‘debrief’ where we were registered, asked if we needed first aid.

“We were asked to keep any images and videos we had of the incident in case police wanted to see them, and were asked not to post them on social media to prevent any unwanted attention.”

Another eyewitness told us: “It all happened so quick. The bus was stopping to pick up the kids when smoke started coming out from the back of the bus.

“All of the kids were removed from the bus safely and were taken across to the other side of road. Shortly after, the bus became more smokey and then caught fire.”

Scottish Borders Council said: “An incident at 8.15am on Station Road south of West Linton saw the P15 school bus travelling from the village to Peebles High School catch fire.

“All 31 pupils on board safely evacuated the bus before it caught fire, with all students and driver unharmed. A senior staff member also attended the scene to ensure pupils were safe.

"Some of the pupils arrived at school later in the morning, while others decided to return home, with the school contacting all parents and guardians of affected students."

The council has offered reassurances to parents over the buses used following the incident.

“SBC continues to investigate the incident with the bus operator, who have assured the council that all of its vehicles go through rigorous safety inspections, with the vehicle in question having successfully passed an MOT in the last month.

“The council, through Peebles High School, will provide an update from the investigation when it is available to the parents of the pupils affected by the incident.”

Peebles High School Rector Campbell Wilson added: “We checked in with all of the young people on the bus to ensure that they were well and to offer support if required. 

“All are well and were grateful for the support offered to them by emergency services and local residents at the time of the incident.”

A spokesperson from BARC Coach Hire told the Peeblesshire News: “This was an electrical fire confined to the engine compartment. The driver responded in the correct manner, by stopping immediately and closing the vehicle down. 

“All passengers were disembarked quickly and safely, and were subsequently taken to school in another vehicle.

“We’d like to reassure any parents concerned we undergo rigorous safety inspections on all our vehicles, and this particular vehicle passed an MOT less than three weeks earlier.”