Berkhamsted coach operator warned after scrapping two school bus services

A Berkhamsted coach operator has been given a formal warning after it stopped operating two school transport services without giving the correct notice.

East of England Traffic Commissioner Richard Turfitt told Tates Coaches that the obligation to supply a local service to the travelling public was an ‘important duty’.

He said the business had made a mistake in treating legal requirements as a mere formality.

The company applied to cancel both the T61 and T43 services to Townsend School in St Albans at less than a fortnight’s notice in October last year.

But its application to the commissioner was rejected, due the adverse impact the cancellation would have on pupils.

Tates Coaches was told to continue providing the services until December 25, but went ahead and cancelled the T43 service before that date.

In a written decision after a hearing in Cambridge earlier this month, Mr Turfitt acknowledged the firm had made ‘considerable efforts’ to ensure pupils found alternative transport to school.

He said the firm was familiar with running school services, but not in the registration process and its obligations to the traffic commissioner.

He said: “Operators, particularly those engaged in the transport of vulnerable members of society, are trusted.”

He said they are trusted to comply with their licence and ‘with what they said they will do because people in society are relying on that service’.

“It is an extremely responsible position to be in,” said the commissioner.

He warned all bus operators to comply with their regulations.

Director of Tates Coaches Alan Tate said his firm took over the T43 and T61 services to Townsend School after Herts County Council scrapped them.

The routes were discontinued as part of a council drive to cut costs.

Mr Tate said: “Once we got passenger numbers, there were some routes that were not viable, so with the school we made alternative arrangements.”

He said Townsend School and the county council spoke in his firm’s favour at the public hearing, which is why the commissioner took no further action.

The commissioner could have suspended or revoked the firm’s licence, only allowed it to operate a limited number of routes or imposed a fine if further action had been taken.