Council stops using operator after coach fire

Wiltshire Council has decided to stop using Denwell Coaches, which is due to have its licence revoked on 31 March 2024. The decision follows one of the company’s coaches from sister operation Igobus catching fire while on the road in Gloucestershire last week.

B&CB reported on Denwell Coaches’ licence revocation in issue 1670 (9 February 2024). In a decision published on 30 January 2024, not only did the Traffic Commissioner revoke the business’ licence, it also ruled that Transport Manager, Darren Brown, has lost his good repute as Transport Manager. As a result, he was disqualified him from acting as such for a period of one year from 31 March 2024.

The Royal Wootton Bassett-based business was called into public inquiry after maintenance issues at the operation worsened over the space of a year. The MOT failure rate deteriorated from 31.5% to 45.95%, with the national failure rate for PSV operators noted at 7.35%.

Traffic Commissioner Kevin Rooney said there ‘just does not seem to be the money to get the vehicles to the correct standard consistently and all year round’. It was also found there were not enough staff to maintain the vehicles.

Supply and demand issue

During the public inquiry, Martin Watson of Wiltshire Council, who oversaw school transport in north Wiltshire, said there was a supply and demand issue across that part of the county. Drivers were already double-running with children arriving late. The issue had been exacerbated by the loss of Calne Travel. They had to go out to tender twice to get the contracts taken up. He said that if another operator was lost, there was no contingency.

Wiltshire Council took the advice of the Traffic Commissioner that the remedial measures the company had already put in place would keep the vehicles safe for a short period of time, a reason behind the decision to delay the termination of the company’s licence to 31 March.

However, Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said that while the local authority would not want to speculate on the causes of the fire, the incident in Gloucestershire has made it reconsider its decision to continue to use the operator.

Cllr Clewer said: “The safety of the pupils we transport to and from school is of paramount importance and so we have taken the decision stop using Denwell Coaches with immediate effect.”

The Council is now working to secure suitable alternative transport for when children return from half-term on 19 February 2024.

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