By Eirian Jane-Prosser.

A BUS driver who was forced to ‘leave people behind’ because of social distancing guidelines, even though his bus was only half full, has prompted an investigation.

The driver for The Hallmark Bus Company told customers he was only allowed to carry 11 passengers.

One passenger said the rule meant those ‘who cannot drive’ are left at an ‘unfair advantage’ as there is no guarantee the bus will have room for all passengers.

Read also: Man sexually assaulted woman in her bed after house party, trial hears

The incident happened last Wednesday, September 9, when a bus on the 250 service route in Bicester was forced to leave behind ‘four children and one pensioner’.

Speaking to this paper, one man who was on board said: “The driver this morning was very kind and he told us all that he was only allowed to carry 11 passengers because of social distancing.

“This would mean he would have to leave people behind.

“These bus routes are depended upon by children, young people, and elderly people who cannot drive.

“In total today we left behind four children and one pensioner.”

The 250 bus service operates between Bicester and Oxford, passing through Heyford Park, Kirtlington, Bletchingdon and Kidlington.

Revealed: The secret hack to getting a coronavirus test in Oxfordshire

The man added: “The children will have to wait an hour and miss probably almost two hours of their precious education and the older person may be travelling to a medical appointment or to get important shopping.

“It seems like a very unfair advantage is given to those who live in the villages at the start of the route.”

The man said the bus had 28 seats and a 'huge' luggage rack.

Other buses around Oxfordshire, such as Oxford Bus Company, are operating at 'between 45 and 60 per cent of normal maximum capacity'.

When asked whether bus companies could prioritise passengers, for example if a passenger has a medical appointment, Oxford Bus Company said: “No, we cannot prioritise boarding for some passengers over others, this may amount to illegal discrimination and boarding is on a first-come first-served basis.”

Read also: Rubbish left scattered on field after travellers pack up

Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, said it has ‘not received any notification of capacity problems on these services'.

However, the council's interim senior public transport planner Dave Harrison said he had been in touch with Hallmark, which had 'promised to investigate'.

He added: “The council has been provided with funds by the Government to provide additional buses for school children, but obviously we can only administer these in the event that we are aware of an issue.

“Where these have been raised, the council has worked closely with bus operators to increase capacity by funding duplicate buses on key peak hour services, and some services have been converted to ‘closed door’ operation where the social distancing rules for public buses do not apply."

Mr Harrison said it was for bus companies to determine their own policies, but he was not aware of any prioritising passengers based on journey purpose.

Hallmark Bus Company has been asked for a comment.