Licence cut and £6k fine for Travel Express

TC rules that responsibility for maintaining vehicles and timetable planning should no longer be current TM’s

The O-Licence held by Wolverhampton-based Travel Express, trading as Let’s Go, has been cut from 20 vehicles to 15 and the company ordered to pay a £6,000 penalty for failing to operate to registered timetables by Traffic Commissioner (TC) Nick Denton.

The TC also directed that to avoid loss of repute as Transport Manager (TM), Director Kishan Chumber must, by the end of February, cease maintaining vehicles himself and appoint at least one IRTEC accredited mechanic with overall responsibility for maintenance, or contract maintenance out entirely; and appoint an additional TM with lead responsibility for timetable planning and monitoring and management and disciplining of drivers.

He imposed undertakings on the O-Licence that roller brake tests would be carried out every 12 weeks and that vehicles would be inspected every six weeks.

In January 2015 TC Nick Jones disqualified Mr Chumber from acting as a TM until he passed a further CPC exam [routeone/Court Report/4 February 2015].

The company’s O-Licence was subsequently revoked [routeone/Court Report/4 February 2015 and September 2015]. It was granted a fresh O-Licence on condition that Mr Chumber had nothing to do with vehicle maintenance, and that he employed a full time TM and a skilled mechanic [routeone/Court Report/23 March 2016].

Mr Chumber appeared before the TC in January, when his repute was restored and he became the company’s TM. In his decision the TC said that the restoration of Mr Chumber’s repute was followed by seven roadworthiness prohibitions in 2019 and a very poor MOT pass rate of 65%.

The same timetabling incompetence which had caused TC Jones to ban Mr Chumber in 2016 from any involvement in timetabling had re-emerged since that ban was lifted in January 2019. There was some evidence that vehicles had been deliberately run a few minutes ahead of rivals, regardless of the timetable.

It was difficult to reach any other conclusion than that Mr Chumber had slipped back to his old slipshod methods of management, timetabling and operating.

The TC accepted that on the whole he had good intentions and was not setting out deliberately to fail to comply, but he feared that history suggested that he might not have it in him to be a compliant operator over an extended period of time.

Part of the problem appeared to be that Mr Chumber was spread too thinly. He was responsible as Director for the running of the business generally, as TM for scheduling, driver management and discipline and general oversight of compliance, and all that while performing much of the maintenance on the company’s vehicles.

The TC had regard to the fact that the route where the principal non-compliance was found was long and congested and even the biggest operator could struggle to run to timetable. He had also borne in mind that passengers tended to be less inconvenienced by a failure to run to time on a route with multiple alternative operators who provided a frequent service.

Against those mitigating factors was a potentially aggravating factor of deliberate early running in front of a rival’s service; and the fact that the company had been fined before for non-compliant running which did not seem to have made any lasting improvements.

This was really the company’s last chance to get things right. He doubted that the O-Licence could survive another Public Inquiry (PI).