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June 12 2019
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

Fresh licence granted for Ulverston operator

Revoked operator succeeds in new restricted licence bid, with a warning from TC over its history

Ulverston-based Blueworks Taxis, which had its three-vehicle national licence revoked in December, succeeded in winning a new two-vehicle restricted licence when it appeared before Traffic Commissioner (TC) Simon Evans at a Golborne Public Inquiry (PI).

The national licence held by the company, trading as Blueworks, was revoked last December on financial grounds after the authorisation on the licence had previously been cut from five vehicles to three in June 2018 because of maintenance problems [routeone/Court Report/7 and 25 July 2018].

The company currently holds a special restricted licence to operate registered local services using a taxi licence granted by South Lakeland District Council.

Multiple occupations

The TC said that in relation to the documentation provided, one of the issues was whether the main occupation rule was met as it was possible that the company could have as many as three occupations. 

There was the special restricted licence, the restricted licence if granted, and the hiring of vehicles and drivers if a Section 22 permit was granted to a group which supported the company – the Friends of the X11, 12 & &70. This was formed after the local authority was unable to continue to support those services which were vital to isolated villages in the local rural community.

‘A better position’

Director Philip Halliwell said that back in 2017 they had “tried to bite off more than they could chew” in that they ran larger bus services than they could sustain. 

They had learnt that bus routes drained a lot of their capital. In addition to the special restricted licence, they also had four school contracts with Cumbria County Council using four- and eight-seater vehicles.

He had seen an opening for private hires for hotels in the Newby Bridge area for a 16-seater minibus. That would be the main use of the restricted licence. 

They were now financially in a better position as they had restricted the bus timetables until the Section 22 permit was granted. 

He intended to continue with the special restricted licence as it would take time for the Friends to take over the bus routes. He would continue to operate over one of the routes in tandem with the Friends. 

Reduced fleet

Until the permit was granted, he would like permission to use the restricted licence on the bus services at peak times on certain parts of the route. He would have to register those parts of the routes until the permit was granted. There could be two or three operators running the Friends permit services.

In reply to the TC, Mr Halliwell said that on occasion he would use a 16-seater on a county council school contract if a taxi had broken down. He gave an undertaking not to apply for a school contract using a PSV under the restricted licence.

Questioned further, Mr Halliwell said that the fleet was now totally reduced. 

He had two viable 16-seaters at the moment. They were not doing anything but were insured as another 16-seater had been destroyed by vandals in February. 

A 29-seater was parked up in the garage which the Friends could use if a permit was granted. 

Improvements made

Since the last PI, he had been on a course and tightened up on the control of the drivers. He was now checking the defect books more frequently. He was still using the same commercial garage to carry out the maintenance of the vehicles. He had pointed out to them what was required. He only envisaged one 16-seater being out at any tome time. He needed a second as a backup in case anything happened.

The principle difference now was that they were not over stretched by the bus timetables, said Mr Halliwell. Using eight-seaters under the special restricted licence was more economical. The maintenance was better as they were newer vehicles.

Asked how the main occupation figures might be affected if he did not get to provide vehicles and drivers for the Friends’ permit services, Mr Halliwell said that he would continue to operate the profitable journeys with the Friends undertaking the non-profitable ones.

Undertakings imposed

Granting the licence with a warning to the company over its previous history, the TC said that he was satisfied that it met the main occupation requirement.

He imposed undertakings on the licence including that separate records be kept to show with clarity that the operation of PSVs was not the main occupation, to record in writing the effect on the main occupation if the company stopped operating its special restricted licence, and to keep a record of any occasions where nine- to 15-seaters were used in an emergency on school contracts.

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