Too soon for celebration

It seems to me, as a layman, that the verdict of the judges after the Judicial Review brought by the Bus and Coach Association is not a clear victory for either side.

The High Court said it was not its remit to decide whether all community transport operators with Section 19 permits, bidding for commercially-tendered contracts, are operating non-commercially. The judgement is that they may or may not be, depending on many, nuanced considerations. That said, the High Court demands that the DfT and DVSA stop delaying enforcement, and thus a legal examination, because they are unsure of the legal niceties.

This never was the mean-spirited, vexatious campaign the Community Transport Association and Mobility Matters shamefully portrayed it to be, and nor was it an attempt to shut down the voluntary sector, and the High Court, in not attributing costs either way, agreed. It was a bid to establish a clear division between the commercial and voluntary sectors.

I say ‘voluntary sector’ but, of course, the point is that a CTO paying salaries to its management and paying drivers, contesting and winning contracts which are intended to promote fair competition between businesses, and retaining profits, is almost indistinguishable from any other transport operation. Those CTOs can then run vehicles using a barely regulated permit system, achieving huge cost savings, and avoiding the legal requirements of an O licence.

All of the CTO managers I have met are decent, fair-minded and public-spirited people. But the permit system does not find out if they are and, as was seen in Cambridgeshire, a system so badly regulated is open to abuse. That is the point the BCA was trying to make, and which was accepted by the Judicial Review in demanding the DfT tests the system in court.

This sends the DfT back to the drawing board and, in my view, it has one, simple option available now which does not involve the perpetuation of the permit system which has provoked this action. There needs to be a recasting of the Restricted O licence to include a category which brings oversight back to the licensing system – instead of a permit system which the High Court demands must now face legal examination, case by case

  •  Hats off to Endaf Jones of Jones of Login, who not only made the long journey from Wales to the excellent National Coach Conference, he rode there on his motorcycle.

As a biker myself, I both appreciate the challenge of the four-hour trek and, given the weather, the leg-numbing nature of winter riding. As we bikers say ‘Shiny Side Up, Endaf.’ Your sacrifice for the joy of two wheels was not lost on me.

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