Section 19: guidance conflicts with TC’s decision
The Department for Transport has issued Section 19/22 guidance which flies in the face of a decision made by Traffic Commissioner for Wales, Nick Jones.
In a ruling at public inquiry for DANSA – a South Wales community transport organisation – Nick Jones decided that, in the case of the CTO, its tendered contracts with the council coupled with its staff structure, DANSA is operating commercially, and directed it to resolve the issues raised by the end of the year (see B&CB 27 September).
But DfT guidance issued last Friday, states that: ‘There‘s no such restriction [‘local services’ for the public] on the holders of a section 19 permit from tendering for contracts to provide services which are not classified as local services. This may include, for example, school transport on which members of the general public aren’t carried, or specialised door-to-door services such as Dial-a-Ride.’
The Traffic Commissioner’s decision to delay enforcement, and the DfT guidance, drew immediate criticism from Martin Allen, of the Bus and Coach Association: “Would any TC give you the grace that these organisations are being gifted?” he said. “I very much doubt it, and because the Community Transport Association issued the permits, they have to agree to the TC decision to revoke the permits; there is no evidence that the CTA have agreed to this.”
Mr Allen – whose Judicial Review is due to be heard on 19-20 November – said that TCs’ decisions have been in conflict: “The enforcement authorities openly state they have no specific provision as to how to regulate a permit operator… now concerns raised by the TC regards drivers not holding the correct driving entitlement and DCPC, and fines imposed by the law courts that were unpaid, and quashed. These organisations seem untouchable by any law enforcement agency… no enforcement, no records, and nobody knows the number of permits in issue. How will the courts view this?”
The same guidance to permit holders advises that the UK will apply the ‘short distance’ exemption and has set ten miles as the limit, either as a radius from the operating centre or as a total journey length between the first embarkation and the last stopping point. The guidance allows for ‘occasional special services’ such as day trips to be longer.
In addition, the DfT says that even longer distances from base will be possible, in situations such as rural operation in which there may be little competition from commercial operators.
“The DfT statistics show that the average bus journey across Great Britain is six miles. Why do we all need an O license? I propose that the commercial sector can and would benefit from this when the ten-mile exemption comes into force,” said Mr Allen. He added that he intends to try to extend the Judicial Review to include the new ‘short distance’ exemption guidance.
The guidance which deals with the ‘not for profit’ exemption says that permit holders will not have to be charities, but Community Interest Companies (CICs) may be able to meet the qualification if the director’s salaries are not ‘excessive.’
Read the guidance in full at https://tinyurl.com/y6ccj9kn