North-east school bus operator contracts terminated after safety checks on vehicles

Two bus operators have had their school contracts terminated after a transport watchdog carried out safety checks, it has been revealed.

As reported in Saturday’s Evening Express, one minibus from J&M Burns Coach Operators and one coach from Kineil Coaches were towed away from Meldrum Academy in Oldmeldrum after the inspection by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) last week.

An urgent report has been put together on the checks, which was being considered by members of Aberdeenshire Council’s education and children’s services committee today.

It revealed that following the DVSA inspection of seven operators’ vehicles providing transport services to Meldrum Academy, three received vehicle prohibition notices: J&M Burns, Kineil Coaches and Watermill Coaches.

Both J&M Burns and Kineil Coaches received immediate prohibition notices, which means the vehicles are not allowed to be driven, and the council has issued contract termination notices for two weeks’ time.

In the report, Maria Walker, director of education and children’s services, said: “Given the serious nature of the two immediate prohibition notices, termination of contract notices were issued to the two operators in receipt of these prohibition notices, with effect from February 14, 2018.

“The use of both vehicles involved on any council passenger transport contract has also been prohibited.”

Kineil Coaches and Watermill Coaches were also each issued with a delayed prohibition notice.

This means a vehicle can be driven away within a specified time period to be repaired.

The report states that Bain’s Coaches also received an advisory notice regarding two minor defects on one vehicle, but this did not merit a delayed or immediate prohibition notice.

Both of the operators have a right of appeal against their contract termination, with J&M Burns confirming they have appealed the decision.

If the appeals are not upheld, the Scottish Traffic Commissioner will be advised of the council’s action for her information.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin said: “Aberdeenshire Council has taken all necessary steps in dealing with this matter efficiently. The safety of children on their journey to and from school is paramount and we must make sure all vehicles are roadworthy.

“I hope the companies who have been given notices will now take all necessary measures to bring their vehicles up to the appropriate standard.”

Ian Clark, director of Watermill Coaches, said: “Our vehicle suffered a minor electrical fault and got a delayed prohibition notice.

“It has already been repaired.”

A spokesman for J&M Burns Coach Operators said: “Following the prohibition on Friday, an independent expert was instructed. He found the issue was not as a result of any failure by Burns Coaches and was an unforeseeable and unpreventable issue. An appeal is being lodged against the decision to terminate the contracts.”

Kineil Coaches declined to comment, while Bain’s Coaches could not be reached for comment.