The Office of Traffic Commissioner (North East of England) has today (25 May 2017) held a Public Inquest into Harrogate Coach Travel Ltd, a company that operates the Connexion buses.
The inquest was called to look at the findings following monitoring the punctuality of services.
A 10-day survey, by the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency, had been undertaken between 14 November 2016 and 25 November 2016. They looked at the bus routes 8, 38, X52, X6, 940, X70 and 13.
In legislation a bus needs to be no earlier than 1 minute or no later than 5 minutes of the time in the timetable.
And 95% of services are required to be on-time to that definition.
Following the survey of 149 Connexions buses, 5 failed to arrive, 8 were more than 1-minute early and 34 were more than 5 minutes late – that gave a non-compliance rate of 30%
At the inquest the validity of the recorded data was challenged. They challenged if data was recorded for both arrival and departure at a stop it was reasonable to record a 1 minute early arrival, but a departure on time as a non-compliance. Connexions also said that the times recorded in the survey did not always correlate with their own data from the the GPS based ticket machines.
Connexions gave mitigation for the late arrivals down to the Christmas Market, unscheduled road works and road accidents.
Managing Director for Connexions, Jonathan Craig Temple spoke to the Inquest saying that they pride themselves on offering a reliable and friendly service, aiming to fill gaps in service. Mr Temple said that Christmas Market had created a lot of delays to them, but was challenged back that it was known that it was happening, as in other years.
Mr Temple also said that if another, non-seasonal period had been checked then there would not have been any problems with punctuality.
Traffic Commissioner, Miles Dorrington considered the matter for 45-minutes and concluded to the inquest:-
- Sampling of bus times was sufficient and representative
- The Christmas Market is a known factor every year, so should have been considered by Connexions
- Even if the punctuality figures are adjusted, based on Connexions challenge, they still remain less then 95%
- It is appropriate to apply a proportionate fine of £50 per vehicle or £1700 in total, payable within 42 days
The Traffic Commissioner commended Connexions for what they aim to achieve but reminded them that it is of little consequence to the public who just want services on time.
He said that the penalty could have been much higher, in the region of £20,000 and that this a mark on their file. No direction for a re-survey was given by the Traffic Commissioner, but he urged that the whole fleet is more actively monitored so that problems don’t happen again.