European Commission (EC) infraction proceedings against the Department for Transport (DfT) concerning abuse of Section 19 permits may finally be coming to a head, with a ‘reasoned opinion’ on the complaint raised by a group of commercial operators expected soon.
miniplus has no doubt that allegations of abuse of the permits by some organisations are, sadly, well-founded, and that businesses have been damaged – in some cases, severely – by that abuse.
Regardless of differing legal opinions about the connection between commercial operation and profit, arguments that contracts are undertaken for no net return are hard to acknowledge. ‘Why bother?’ is the obvious reply.
But at the same time, major changes to Section 19 regulations as a result of the proceedings could have a serious impact on passengers who use services operated under such permits that have no effect on the for-profit sector. In a worst-case scenario, those buses could disappear.
The group of operators took their complaint to the EC followed after the DfT and ministers repeatedly put their fingers in their ears and ignored them, rather than deal with abuse of permits. The current situation is the result, and the government must shoulder the blame.