Making the revocation and disqualification orders, the TC said that the gross failures in the maintenance systems pointed to a complete lack of management control
Michael Hazell is appealing against his disqualification from acting as Transport Manager (TM) by Traffic Commissioner (TC) Kevin Rooney following the revocation of the 14-vehicle International O- Licence held by Exeter-based CM Coaches, of which he had been a Director, and of the one vehicle licence held in his own name.
Michael Hazell had been a Director of Carmel Coaches whose licence was revoked in June 2014 along with his sole trader licence and Mr Hazell and his father Anthony disqualified for 18 months. Decisions that were upheld on appeal [routeone/Court Report/12 November 2014].
The TC said an unsatisfactory maintenance investigation was carried out in June 2018 following reports of an undeclared fire on a bus carrying children. A coach carrying children burst into flames on or around 6 February 2018 causing evacuation of the children onto a busy carriageway.
A response to the shortcomings found during the investigation mentioned former TM Andrew Poole, former Director and TM Colin Holt and former Director Christopher Hilditch. Michael Hazell was keen to distance himself from anything that had occurred whilst he was neither Director nor TM. In December the company cancelled its registered bus services in favour of Carmel Coaches. On 10 December 2018 Michael Hazell, as sole Director and TM, was removed from the licence. A new TM and Director, Alastair Gray, was to be appointed by the purchasers.
Alastair Gray was a Director of Hookways from 2006 until the company entered insolvent liquidation in August 2011. He was a Director of Hamilton Grays (Devon) from August to November 2011 when its licence was revoked on financial grounds [routeone/Court Report/ 22 August 2018].
In January he received a letter from John Burch, regional manager of the CPT, which explained the circumstances behind Mr Hazell’s removal as Director and Transport Manager and Mr Gray’s subsequent application to be the TM on the licence. All parties had been acting on Mr Burch’s advice.
Michael Hazell said he was to be paid £20,000 for the company. The sale was for the business, goodwill and any existing work that Mr Gray wanted to keep. No physical assets had changed hands.
Mr Gray said that everything was now on hold. The vehicles put on the licence in December had been disposed of and there were now two vehicles which had come from another operator. Maintenance would be undertaken by Budlake Commercials, of which he is also Director and was based at the operating centre.
Making the revocation and disqualification orders, the TC said that the gross failures in the maintenance systems pointed to a complete lack of management control. Mr Gray referred to purchasing a “going concern”. All the registered services were cancelled. The operating centre, staff and vehicles did not transfer. He concluded that the only real value in the purchase of CM Coaches lay in its O-licence. By buying the company, and the licence, Mr Gray had side-stepped the scrutiny that applied to new applicants.
The circumstances were such that he would normally impose a signification period of disqualification for Alastair Gray and Michael Hazell. However, the role played by the CPT was troublesome. It appeared that the CPT had a part to play in bringing the parties together and provided advice to both. An operator might expect to be able to rely on advice from its trade association. He therefore drew back from taking away their individual repute as operators and he was not disqualifying each in that respect.