A VOSA investigation revealed a quarter of all buses run by First Manchester do not run on time
First Manchester has been fined £285,000 after North West traffic commissioner Beverley Bell ruled the firm had failed to meet the industry regulation of 95% for punctuality.
A recent high-profile public inquiry heard how officers from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) monitored more than 860 journeys in Eccles, Swinton, Worsley, Royton, Trafford and Stalybridge over January and February last year.
The investigation revealed a quarter of the operator’s buses were not running on time and showed First’s overall compliance rate across Greater Manchester was 82.5%.
Accepting First had “clearly done a lot”, Ms Bell said the operator was “working hard with the local authority and Transport for Greater Manchester” but it was “just a case of where more needed to be done”.
“The main reason I imposed the penalty was because the operator hadn’t done enough to make sure these services ran on time,” she said.
“This monitoring was over 12 months ago and yet, as at today’s date, the operator was still trying to put measures in place and I didn’t think that was enough done quickly enough.”
Ms Bell said she had the option of fining the company up to £500,000 but had decided on £285,000 in view of the work the company had already done in improving services.
She added it would have been “wholly wrong” to take away First’s O-licence in Greater Manchester.
However, she said she wanted First “to show over the next three to six months that it is operating properly – and if it isn’t, it’ll have to come back and see me again”.
“I want to send a message which is, without imposing a penalty, First Manchester would not have focused its mind enough to meet the legislation and I still feel it’s being complacent.”
“I have asked the operator to report back to me in three and six months so I can see if work has been done to improve. I need to be satisfied they won’t just take the financial hit,” she added.
If First cannot show improvement then it could face a second public inquiry.
A spokesman for First stated the company was disappointed by the outcome of the public inquiry and would reflect further upon its position.
“First Manchester continues to devote a significant amount of time and resource to ensuring that it provides a punctual and reliable service for its customers. While we continue to face challenging operating conditions in Manchester, not least as a result of the continuing Tramlink development, we are committed to actively engaging with all relevant parties to ensure that network disruption is kept to a minimum.
“Indeed, the traffic commissioner recognised the role local authorities and Transport for Greater Manchester must play in improving and sustaining service quality and we will continue to work in partnership with them to achieve this objective.”
For a thought-provoking article on First Manchester’s PI, visit popular industry blog Omnibuses at omnibuses.blogspot.co.uk.