A Melton-based bus firm which used to take children to school has been banned from operating for five years and had its passenger transport licence revoked following a public inquiry.
Traffic commissioner Richard Turfitt said there had been serious failings by Starline Coaches Leicester Limited, formerly based in Wycomb, to maintain vehicles in a state that was not only fit and serviceable but would also ensure the safety of passengers and other members of the public using the roads.
The inquiry was called to consider findings by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the company’s failure to satisfy the mandatory requirement of professional competence.
During the inquiry Mr Turfitt noted that a DVSA examiner had found vehicle maintenance standards to be below an acceptable standard.
The vehicle examiner reported that routine vehicle safety inspections had not taken place on time, vehicle inspection records had not been completed properly, repairs were not signed off as having been undertaken and defects reported by drivers were not marked as rectified.
Additionally, the commissioner was satisfied that the company had failed to inform DVSA of a major incident involving the loss of a wheel - a legal requirement - and had operated a vehicle without a valid MOT for four months.
The regulator also noted that the company’s vehicle annual test history was poor, with vehicles failing due to defects on seatbelts, tyres, lamps and brakes performance and braking systems.
And Mr Turfitt also said the firm had misled a DVSA examiner, when he attempted to conduct his investigation in July 2015, saying the transport manager was on holiday when he had resigned.
A separate DVSA investigation revealed the company had failed to take any action on infringements committed by drivers, with no evidence of training for new recruits or existing drivers. The agency reported that all other systems for drivers’ hours and tachograph compliance were satisfactory.
The public inquiry was held in Cambridge on April 6 which the company failed to attend.
Former company director Colin Onions told the Melton Times that the firm was ‘no longer actively trading due to licensing issues’ and had surrendered its licences before the public inquiry.
Mr Onions said the company, which ran for five years, was honouring all the private hire bookings it had by sub-contracting out all of this work to another operator in Leicester, an arrangement which he said was ‘perfectly legal’.
He said: “Any money given to us has been passed on to the new operator which has informed customers. We cancelled our tours and excursions and wrote to customers to say we could no longer honour them and have given everyone their money back.”
A Leicestershire County Council spokesman said: “The contract between the council and Starline Coaches to provide school transport was ended in March this year after the operator stopped trading. Another local operator is now running this service.
“Following the disqualification of the operators’ licence, any application from individuals associated with Starline Coaches to run contracted services for the council will be treated on individual merit.”