Bus & Coach Association efforts vindicated?
After 16 months of campaigning, the Bus & Coach Association’s efforts to create what it sees as a more level playing field for commercial operators faced with competition from Community Transport based organisations shows signs of reaching a successful conclusion. The organisation has argued that it is not only morally wrong but illegal under European law (EC1071/2009) relating to Access to the Profession, for organisations receiving public funding to be able to compete for tenders (with commercial operators) when they do not hold the appropriate operator’s licence and are using drivers that do not have full CPC qualifications when those working for commercial operators do have to be thus trained.
The Government’s position has been that Community Transport operators are exempt from the regulation because their not for profit status means that they are non commercial operations.
Martin Allen, Director of the Bus & Coach Association, who has been leading the campaign, sees the issuing by the EU Commission of an Infringement Formal Notice on 29 April 2015 as the clearest sign yet that the UK Government will be forced to alter its stance on the issue. His understanding is that the EU Commission does not consider Community Transport Organisations to be non commercial, does consider their operation of tendered commercial services to have an adverse road safety and competition impact and does believe that the requirements of EC1071/2009 apply to such organisations.
The Government has two months to reply to the Formal Notice indicating how it intends to implement regulation EC1071/2009 in future.
Martin Allen also believes the issuing of the Formal Notice calls into question whether local authorities issuing tendered contracts to CT organisations without the necessary licences and CPC qualified drivers are meeting their duty of care obligations and if they are not, whether any insurance the organisations operated under would be valid.
A renewed membership drive for the Bus & Coach Association is to be launched, with the aim of tackling what Martin sees as the widespread abuse of European tendering regulations to the detriment of commercial bus and coach operators.