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MiniPlus Article
November 14 2018
By Tim Deakin

Tim is Editor of routeone and has worked in both the coach and bus and haulage industries.

Judicial Review may be 'days away', says BCA

Bus and Coach Association says continued DfT stalling on enforcement is set to trigger application

Martin Allen of the BCA: ‘DfT has shown no interest in enforcing the law’

The Bus and Coach Association (BCA) may seek a Judicial Review into the operation of contracts under section 19 and 22 permits “within days”.

The news comes following then-Under-Secretary of State Jesse Norman’s earlier comments that “it would be premature for local authorities to withhold contracts pending further analysis and exploration of… legal complexities.”

‘Stalling tactic’

That, says the BCA’s Martin Allen (pictured), is a stalling tactic that contradicts what DfT Head of Buses and Taxis Division Stephen Fidler said in his July 2017 letter to permit holders.

Mr Fidler stated that organisations employing paid drivers and operating contracts won in a contestable market and/or in exchange for fares at more than nominal rates cannot be regarded as carrying out activities on a non-commercial basis.

Mr Allen claims that for-profit work is rife among permit holders and that drivers are usually paid, meaning that those organisations do not observe the requirements for driver licencing.

Permit holders have long argued that making a profit does not in itself equate to commercial operation, and that surpluses pay for socially necessary services. Mr Allen disputes the first part of that claim. He says that the BCA has already approached the DfT seeking legal clarity on exactly what constitutes non-commercial.

Judicial Review the next step?

The DfT’s refusal to engage has led the BCA to send a last letter before action. It wants the DfT to explain its reasons for what Mr Allen calls “a complete non-enforcement” of the law, and it requests that a definitive verdict on the definition of non-commercial is sourced.

If a reply is not received by Monday (19 November), Mr Allen says the next step will be to apply for a Judicial Review. If that happens, he believes that there will be widespread consequences across the community transport sector and beyond. “The DfT has forced us into this. It has attempted to stall. All we want it to do is enforce the law.”