Bus operator to fight on after licence bid fails

A BUS operator has pledged to go to court to get his vehicles back on the road after Scotland’s Traffic Commissioner judged him unfit to run the business.

Earlier this year Motherwell-based Braidhurst Bus Company - formerly known as Coakley - lost all 70 of its licences after an inquiry.

Traffic Commissioner Joan Aitken accepted a catalogue of complaints against the company which included buses having no destination name displayed and drivers leaving vehicles unattended.

The Braidhurst firm is now in liquidation, but owner and sole shareholder Edward Coakley applied to start afresh, operating the fleet as sole trader.

However, Ms Aitken has rejected that request, saying Mr Coakley lacks ‘repute, financial standing and professional competence’.

It has emerged that the interim liquidator of the Braidhurst company is suing Mr Coakley for £1.2 million.

CONCERN

Ms Aitken expressed concern at that development and said she took a ‘dim view’ of Mr Coakley’s 2010 court convictions for threatening employees of the rival First Bus firm in Motherwell.

The commissioner criticised Mr Coakley for not telling her earlier that he was using his own money to prop up the Braidhurst company.

She said: “It is clear the liquidator has considerable misgivings regarding the financial arrangements between Mr Coakley and the company.

“This writ raises a question as to repute and, at best, reveals that neither Mr Coakley’s business books nor those of the company were such as to quell any doubt as to impropriety.

“I consider that Mr Coakley allowed me to be misled as to the financial standing of the company.”

However, Mr Coakley’s lawyer told the public inquiry the court action will be defended and a counter claim will be lodged.

He said the sum in question was money that was owed by Braidhurst to Mr Coakley who had been paying the wages of drivers and other employees.

Mr Coakley denied ‘ransacking’ the company of funds and had, in fact, ‘used his own funds and assets to keep it going’.

Mr Coakley had already queried Ms Aitken’s impartiality, claiming she was biased against him and calling for her to be removed from cases involving him.

After the latest hearing he said: “The important thing for me is that this is now out of Ms Aitken’s hands as I am appealing against her decision to the Transport Tribunal.

“If need be, I’ll go to the Court of Session where I’ve had a Traffic Commissioner’s decision overturned before. I’m confident I can still get a result.

“On the issue of professional competence, I have the qualifications. As for financial standing, according to the European directive I have shown more than enough evidence of that. And I don’t think being admonished on breach of the peace charges should be a factor in repute.”

Despite the loss of licences, some of Mr Coakley’s buses are still on the road, running between Motherwell, Hamilton and Bellshill for Airbles Bus Company.

And he struck a deal to lease buses to Cumbernauld-based Mackenzie which this week started operating between Newarthill and Motherwell.