What's Going On?
Ex-Senior Traffic Commissioner Mrs Beverley Bell committed serious misconduct in public office, was wholly unsuited to the role of presiding over a Public Inquiry, was hectoring and bullying in her approach and should not be enabled to work as a Traffic Commissioner.
In a July 2018 letter to the Department for Transport responding to Sir Alistair’s conclusions, Mrs Bell acknowledged that his report was fair and that she accepted his findings. She wrote that she regretted that she “did not always display the high standards of conduct that are required” and said she would apologise to Mr Higgs. However, she was advised by a DfT Official not to apologise and, following a meeting at the DfT, she changed her mind. She has not apologised and now denies that she was at fault.
The detail of the kerfuffle is complex and beyond the wit of normal man to follow. But for those who want to read more or refresh their memory, fbb has re-published a blog wot he wrote nearer the events described above.
Mt Higgs was banned from operating buss because he had lost hus "good repute". His case was reheard by another Traffic Commissioner but the ban was upheld. So his Catch22 operation ceased.
No! It kept going.
It is perfectly possible to close a company down, start a new one with a different person now "of good repute", buy the assets of the closed operation and continue trading. As long as the licence holder is now "of good repute" things can continue. In simple terms "bad repute" usually entails legal, financial and/or operational failures.
fbb has no "legal" knowledge of this case, but it looks as if Sur Alistair (retired) was acting in an "advisory" capacity, not a judgemental capacity.
But Mr Higgs is still running his buses, apparently successfully, in Blackpool/ Since 2007 the company is Coastliner Buses ...
Coastliner had three routes on its current on-line map, much the sme as before.
Never mind - 'it's all on line!
Straightforward so far, but then comes a batch of Sightseeing tours which no longer operate. (Have they ever?)
Incidentally, fbb did come across a Routemaster with blinds set for a Chester Tour, but cannot confirm whether this was an actual run or just a PR set up.
Next Here We Go Again blog : Satrday 31st December
It is easy to start a "Limited Company". You simply buy one (fbb's cost £100). It will have a silly same (Solent Blue Line's was Musterphantom Limited) which you change; you choose wide ranging articles of association which say that you will be a Transport Operator but you might do almost anything else as well. Directors are appointed and have to pay cash for the company's shares. (fbb had two directors, putting £250 each into the pot for 500 shares of £1 each).
In the box, you get a company seal.
And you are in business. You must send an annual return and lodge annual accounts with Companies House. For a small company, you do not even need auditors.
To run buses you then need an operators licence which involves ensuring that the Directors are "of good repute" (have some cash, and have not been banned) and that you have a Transport Manager who is qualified. Back in fbb's day this Certificate of Personal Competence was not difficult to obtain although all the regulations have been tightened up subsequently. You need an operating base. Oh yes, and a bus or two.
These must be properly maintained and, effectively, be given an "MOT" test every four to six weeks (depending on mileage operated). Repeated test failures are a no-no and you risk being shut down. Your buses can also be inspected at any time whilst on the road and impounded without warning.
If you want to run a public service you need to register the route and timetable with the Traffic Commissioners.
Although the company's responsibilities to the outside world are "Limited", its officers are personally and financially liable for abiding by the rules.
A Blackpool bus operator is facing a seven year ban after a transport inspector ruled it did not comply with the terms of its licence. Oakwood Travel, now operating under the name Catch 22 Bus Ltd, has been involved in a long running series of hearings with the Traffic Commissioner over its licence. Alongside the appeal application, she was asked to consider a stay of her decisions regarding the company, its director Philip Higgs, and transport manager Frank Steele, pending the outcome of any appeal hearing. Its owner Philip Higgs was also linked to Classic Bus North West and Totally Transport as well as Red Rocket buses.
We know (from previous blogs) that Classic Bus North West went bust in December 2013 after closing down its route 80 and the contract with Lancashire without the requisite periods of notice.
Going bust due to "financial difficulties" suggests questions of management competence and might make the Commissioner consider that Mr Higgs "good repute" wasn't, But we haven't hearts of the Community Interest Company "Totally Transport". This was tied in with the Lancashire Transport Trust and, according to local sources, undertook vehicle refurbishment.
Not the best way forward!
Not an ideal response!
But a video had appeared on YouTube which purported to show Mrs Bell breaking the law as she drove her motor car via the M58 and M6.