Travel Express wins new licence

Wolverhampton firm wins new eight-vehicle licence six months after revocation; Director gives undertaking not to have any role in the transport management.

Kishan Singh Chumber’s Travel Express has won a new eight-vehicle national licence, on the condition that Mr Chumber employs a full-time Transport Manager (TM), a full-time skilled mechanic, and has nothing to do with vehicle maintenance.

The company, of Coton Road, Wolverhampton, was seeking a licence authorising 20 vehicles before Traffic Commissioner (TC) Nick Jones at a Birmingham Public Inquiry.

In January 2015 the TC cut the company’s licence from 13 vehicles to eight, ordered it to pay a financial penalty of £6,500, cancelled the registrations of two of its four local services, banned it from registering any new services until 15 March 2016, and held that Mr Chumber was unfit to act as TM until he had passed a further CPC exam, giving the company three months in which to appoint a new TM.

In that decision, the TC said that whether Mr Chumber was able to defer to someone else running his business was likely to be an ongoing concern (routeONE, Court Report, 14 January & 4 February 2015).

 The TC’s decision was upheld by the Upper Tribunal on appeal, who said that this was a bad case and a new TM was clearly not the complete answer, especially where the new person would probably be appointed by Mr Chumber (routeONE, Court Report, 26 August 2015).

In September the TC revoked the company’s licence after it failed to employ a new TM within the period of grace (routeONE, Court Report, 23 September 2015).

At the outset, the TC said that he was surprised that the application was for 20 vehicles, considering the previous history.

Questioned by the TC, the proposed TM Terence Johnson said that he was currently a driver with Central Buses. He had previously been TM for Acorn Bus & Coach and Vals Coaches.

After the TC had commented that those operators had had a very unhappy history, with high levels of non-compliance, Mr Johnson said that he had put systems in to make them compliant, but due to financial circumstances it had not happened.

He had had his own bus company with 18 vehicles. He had been Operations Manager for Rotala Blue Diamond with a staff of 200 and a licence for 160 vehicles. He believed he could make Travel Express compliant, despite Mr Chumber.

The TC said that there was a need for a highly competent, mentally strong individual who was robust and able to deal with Mr Chumber.

Mr Johnson said that he did not want Mr Chumber to inspect vehicles, no matter how qualified. A break from the past was needed. He would be employed full-time. He would prefer to keep the maintenance in-house to keep a strict eye on it.

Mr Chumber said that the main reason he wanted 20 vehicles was to take advantage of the opportunities in the Wolverhampton area to build the business. He had previously applied for 20 vehicles after buying a garage capable of holding 36 vehicles, and he wanted to be able to use those facilities. The role of Director and TM would be totally separated.

After Mr Chumber had said he would still do the physical maintenance of the vehicles, the TC said that was not what he would want him to be doing. He added: “Wielding a spanner was the problem in the past as your standards were not up to scratch. Your maintenance history was very poor.”

Mr Chumber said that he was giving up the TM’s role and would gradually give up the maintenance role as they obtained more maintenance staff as the business grew.

The TC said that if he granted a licence, Mr Chumber would not be involved with the maintenance of the vehicles or with supervising the mechanics. Asked whether he could cope with that, Mr Chumber replied: “I will have to won’t I.”

Mr Chumber said that he had 10 DDA-compliant vehicles ready to go if the licence was granted and he was looking to get DDA certificates for another seven vehicles. He would work hand in glove with the TM, who would be responsible for all operational matters.

Mr Chumber gave undertakings that he would have no role in transport management even in an advisory capacity including all aspects of vehicle maintenance; that there would be six monthly audits of the maintenance systems by the FTA; and not to start operation until the TM had notified the TC in writing that he was personally satisfied skilled staff were in place and the vehicles were of the required standard.

Granting an eight-vehicle licence, the TC said that if things went well he would be prepared to gradually increase the authorisation.