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July 18 2018
By Mike Jewell

Mike Jewell is the industry’s leading legal journalist, covering all key cases brought before Public Inquries, Tribunals, Magistrates and Crown Courts

Diamond Bus before TC again over bus reliability

Rotala-owned Diamond Bus has to wait to see what action, if any, Traffic Commissioner (TC) Nick Denton is to take after its third appearance at a Public Inquiry (PI) over bus reliability issues.

In October 2014 the Tividale, West Midlands-based firm was ordered to pay £57,000 for failure to operate to timetable, later reduced to £34,200 on appeal [routeone/7 October 2015/Court Report].

In November 2016 the company was given a formal warming by the TC [routeone/21 December 2016 and 8 March 2017/Court Report].

At the Kidderminster PI, the TC said he had received a “large number” of complaints from the public and as a result DVSA had carried out a further monitoring exercise.

DVSA Bus Operator Accounts Manager (BOAM) Austin Jones said that the initial results showed a non-compliance rate of 21% involving early and late running and failures to operate. After the company’s response the failure rate had been reduced to 11%.

For the company, Jonathan Backhouse said on a number of occasions when it was said there was a failure to operate, the bus had actually run late. Problems were caused by unexpected congestion, vehicle breakdowns, unplanned roadworks and staff problems. There was reasonable excuse in many instances of late running and failures to operate. 

All but one of the complaints related to the Kidderminster depot and many of those were about circular route 3. That service had been affected by unplanned roadworks and in the summer traffic could be horrendous.

With a particular challenging commercial route like route 3 that could not be operated within the window of tolerance, the options were to run late and be penalised by the TC or to cease operating it.

MD Simon Dunn outlined the measures taken to improve service reliability since the last PI, including the use of satellite technology to see where a bus was in relation to the timetable.

After the TC had said that no other operator had that volume of complaints, Mr Dunn said that the company was not receiving the complaints, as people would rather complain to the TC and not all complaints were justified.

Director and Transport Manager Robert Baker said he took every complaint seriously. It could take up to 28 days to investigate a complaint. The number of customer service personnel at each depot had been increased.

The TC said two vehicle fires were considered at the last PI, and there had been two more since.

Mr Baker said that the first two had been due to alternators and they had all since been replaced. There was no real conclusion why the third fire occurred and in the fourth, the fire inspector felt was something to do with the demister.

Asked about a wheel loss incident [routeone/20 June/Whisperer], Mr Baker said that an inspection of the wheels and studs showed nothing wrong and the calibration of the torque wrench was under investigation by the manufacturer. 

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