First Buses Cymru Ltd has been ordered to pay a £20,600 penalty by the Deputy Traffic Commissioner for Wales, Tony Seculer, following a public inquiry at Swansea Magistrates’ Court on 23 October 2019.
The company was found to have failed to operate bus services in keeping with registered timetables, with Bus Users Cymru reporting reliability issues with four services – the 4, 11, 12 and 13. The operator is required to pay a penalty of £50 per authorised vehicle, giving a total penalty of £20,600, payable to the Welsh Assembly within 28 days of the decision.
The Deputy TC said: “My objective is to focus minds so that the statutory objectives are achieved and the travelling public achieve a punctual, reliable and comfortable bus service.
“The cited complaints illustrate the frustrations of the public when services do not run as timetabled and confidence in public transport is vital if targets to reduce private car usage, alleviate road congestion, boost economic development and reduce environmental damage are to be achieved.”
The operator previously received two formal warnings from the Traffic Commissioner for Wales. The first was delivered after services 27 and 28 were found by Bus Users Cymru monitoring to be operating with overall punctuality of 67% and 78% in November/December 2018. Following this, on 4 April 2019 a formal warning was issued in respect of services 16, L1, L2, L3 and L4, which a monitoring exercise found to be operating with 85% punctuality.
The recent action follows a bus monitoring exercise carried out in response to further passenger complaints. While service 4 was found to be performing with 91.67% reliability, services 11, 12 and 13 were found to be operating at the much lower figure of 69.94% punctuality.
At the public inquiry, First Cymru Managing Director, Andrew Sherrington referred to ‘industry-wide technical issues with engines on the Wrightbus Streetlite and with suspension on the Alexander Dennis Ltd Enviro200 and Enviro300,’ stating that the operator had a high reliance on those vehicles. In addition, he said the Ravenhill depot had experienced performance-related issues in the engineering department which had resulted in failings in the non-safety related servicing of vehicles and a consequent higher than normal breakdown level.
However, the Deputy TC noted: “The operator should have been aware of the technical issues affecting the fleet and the engineering issues at Ravenhill. The longer that known business challenges exist for an operator without resolution in terms of their impact on services, the harder it is to claim that those events amount to exceptional circumstances or a reasonable excuse for not meeting punctuality targets.”