Owner fury as buses ordered off the road

A BUS company boss has slammed Scotland’s Traffic Commissioner after his fleet of vehicles was ordered off the road.

Braidhurst Bus Company, formerly known as Coakley, was the biggest rival to the nationwide First operator in the Motherwell and Bellshill area.

However, earlier this year the company lost 30 of its 70 bus licences after a public inquiry. Now the remaining 40 licences have also been revoked.

Owner Eddie Coakley said the decision is bad news for bus passengers and the dozens of employees he has had to lay off at his Motherwell depot.

And he demanded that Traffic Commissioner Joan Aitken be barred from considering his application for fresh licences - because she doesn’t like him.

Mr Coakley said: “The Traffic Commissioner is supposed to be an independent arbiter, but has got personal in this case. At one point she even suggested I consider a career change.

CONTEMPT

“She is messing us about, treating me with contempt, and I am asking the Secretary of State to use his powers to have her moved aside so someone else can rule on applications involving me.”

Thirty licences were revoked in March after Ms Aitken accepted a catalogue of complaints about Coakley buses.

These included buses having no destination name displayed, failure to display licence and tax discs, and drivers leaving buses unattended.

She also fined the company £10,000, branding it ‘a very scruffy operation’.

Mr Coakley is currently serving a six-year company director ban for failure to keep adequate accounting records.

Although he owned the Braidhurst company and was its main source of finance, he found it difficult to run it properly given the ban.

He told the Traffic Commissioner he was happy to surrender the company’s licences if he could operate in his own name as a sole trader.

Ms Aitken agreed to consider this request but ordered Mr Coakley to show he had assets of at least £173,000 in order to prove his financial standing.

In the meantime, however, Braidhurst Bus Company went into liquidation and Ms Aitken was furious to discover the £10,000 fine had not been paid.

She revoked the company’s remaining licences and refused to rule on Mr Coakley’s application for fresh licences.

She said: “I am concerned as to the repute of those who have been directors or shareholders given the non-compliance I have already recorded and the turn of events which has led to this latest revocation.

“These concerns will be raised in the context of any other operator licences or applications in which they have or appear to have involvement.”

A spokesman for Ms Aitken added: “The Traffic Commissioner is considering an application by Mr Coakley for a licence in his own name and that application has not been granted.

“It is usual for Traffic Commissioners to consider any links between an individual and a failed business with which that individual has an association, and Mr Coakley is no exception.”

Mr Coakley argued he had met the criteria of competence, repute and financial standing laid down by law and the granting of fresh licences should have been ‘automatic’.

He added: “Ms Aitken has indicated it will be September before there is another hearing, so I am very much in limbo.

“She wasn’t even willing to refuse my application so I could move on to the next stage and appeal against it.

“Given my director ban, I couldn’t be hands on with the Braidhurst company.

Turn to page 3