Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bus firm criticised at hearing

I am amazed this is the only service criticised as buses often don't arrive.

David James, South Wales Echo
TWO bus company chiefs who ignored critical timeliness reports and blanked complaining passengers were lambasted by a furious transport inspector. Deputy Transport Commissioner Roger Seymour told the two top men at budget South Wales bus provider EST he was “astonished” at their unconcerned approach to “the most serious issues”.
Two bus monitoring reports in 2006 and 2007 revealed around a quarter of their services in the Vale of Glamorgan – some of which were subsidised by the taxpayer – ran late, early or not at all.
Yet neither managing director Carl Hooking, of Barry, or operations manager Mark Harris, of Penarth, replied to the letters sent to the company. Under cross-examination during a three-hour hearing at Cardiff County Court yesterday, both were repeatedly forced to admit failings.
Their solicitor Paul Carliss said: “The company has been found wanting without a shadow of a doubt.
“There probably may have been complacency.”
Llandow-based EST hit the headlines in 2002 when Ystradowen teenager Stuart Cunningham Jones died in a crash on one of the school services it runs in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Mr Seymour said he was not considering that tragedy in his inquiry into the failings over time-keeping and customer service revealed yesterday. Bus monitor Michael Anderson told the hearing that of 166 services he checked in January and February this year, 14 did not run at all, 15 were early, 10 were late and six had the wrong signs on.
Among these, he highlighted one bus that parked up at Barry Library and missed two departure times before it left.
He said: “I don’t think it could have broken down.
“The driver left the vehicle, I presumed he left for lunch, and it started up again pretty quickly when he got back.”
Mr Carliss told the hearing that many of the services that left early did so by only two minutes and that only two were more than 10 minutes late.
And both Mr Harris and Mr Hooking blamed a former employee for failing to pass on or deal with the issues and promised that they would act on everything Mr Seymour raised.
A passenger, Howard Damm, 63, who lives in the west of Barry, told the hearing how he had complained after no bus turned up five times out of six when he went to get it earlier this year.
He said: “Every time I rang up a man or a woman promised that a manager would ring me back but no-one ever did.
“I would like them to get this sorted out. I don’t want to take the company down.
“If the bus services are pulled out, people like me suffer.”
Mr Seymour told the company he would deliver a written verdict within 28 days. Among the penalties at his disposal are stiff fines and the removal of bus routes from the company.