Clayton still has fine to pay and number of operator licences reduced to 12
South Wales bus operator Clayton Jones has won his appeal against a decision by the Traffic Commissioner (TC) on the grounds of repute – and his operator’s licence will not be revoked.
However, Clayton has been ordered to pay a fine of £9,975 to the Welsh Assembly Government for lateness of service and Clayton said the company is “seeking advice on an appeal to a higher jurisdiction” on this. Instead of the revocation, the tribunal has reduced the number of operator licences Clayton can use at any one time from 21 to 12.
The background to the appeal is that TC for Wales, Nick Jones, issued a report into Clayton’s activities in April (see CBW997). The TC found the Heart of Wales Bus company no longer satisfied a requirement under the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 to be of good repute. His report said Clayton’s firm, which was allowed to operate 21 vehicles, had, without reasonable excuse, failed to run one or more of its local services. He also found timetable issues with 27% of services and there was also an issue with Clayton’s private hire licence.
The appeal was adjourned from July 29 to August 10 and the tribunal has ruled the appeal should be allowed, and adverse findings in relation to the repute of the operator and transport manager of the company should be set aside.
In his decision letter dated September 1, Mark Hinchliffe, Upper Tribunal judge, said: “In conclusion, we have found that, in a number of material respects, the TC fell into error. We accept this case was complicated, and was made more so by the addition of issues as matters progressed.
“However, in our judgment, the inclusion of matters which should not have been included in the TC’s considerations in relation to repute, together with our finding that some matters (although rightly included) could not attract significant adverse weight, require us to take a different view from that of the TC. We hold that the findings in relation to the operator’s repute and the consequent revocation cannot stand.”
Hinchliffe continued: “We have also found that some findings were justified on the evidence and were not plainly wrong.”
“We therefore allow the appeal to the extent that the adverse findings in relation to the operator’s repute, and the transport manager’s repute, are set aside,” he concluded. “Consequently, the operator’s licence will not be revoked. Instead, we vary the condition specifying the maximum number of vehicles the holder may at any one time.”
Conversely, Clayton told CBW on September 4: “Please note there was no sanction regarding the number of vehicles being reduced. This is what we requested at the PI and reiterated at the appeal. The only sanction upheld was the fine for running early/late where we are seeking advice on an appeal to a higher jurisdiction.”
Clayton welcomed the overall decision to uphold his appeal. “This was clash of personalities where the TC could not bring himself to understand criticism of certain individuals who regulate transport public sector issues does not mean the death sentence for those who are prepared to challenge their decisions,” commented Clayton.
“Remarkably where it has become custom and practice for the appeal court to refer such matters back to the same TC or a deputy TC from an appeal on many past decisions, on this occasion they simply said he was wrong.”
Clayton issued a warning: ‘’To all those who were dancing on my grave for the past five months, think again. And those local authorities who have acted by cancelling or not awarding contracts before this decision will be having substantial correspondence very shortly as there have been massive losses from a clearly flawed hearing and subsequent decision.”