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Coventry fatal bus crash company keeps licence

Midland Red South, the bus company involved in the fatal crash in Coventry in 2015, has been allowed to keep its licence.

A public inquiry was held by the Traffic Commissioner for the West Midlands in February.

The doubledecker collided with the front of Sainsburys in Trinity Street in October 2015 - 7 year old Rowan Fitzgerald from Leamington and pensioner Dora Hancox died.

Midland Red South admitted health and safety charges and was fined 2 point 3 million pounds last year.

Nicholas Denton has decided the firm can keep its licence and the repute of the company and of its transport managers is retained.

But the licence conditions will be varied so the maximum number of vehicles it can operate is reduced from 261 to 200 for the period of 28 days, with effect from 0001 on 1 April until 0001 hours on 29 April 2019 - which is "a strong warning to the company that it has failed to come up to expectations in ensuring the safety of its staff and other road users, and that if such a failure is ever repeated then the complete loss of its right to operate would be the likely consequence"

 

Here's the part of the report from the Traffic Commissioner where he makes his decision:

Consideration of the issues

One of the basic duties of a bus company is to ensure that its drivers are capable of driving its buses in a safe manner which endangers neither passengers nor other road users and pedestrians; and that the drivers possess the appropriate levels of skill and health with which to do so. Somehow, Midland Red (South) Ltd’s procedures were inadequately applied to Mr Chander, at various instances and over an extended period of time, with the result that he was allowed to drive very long hours even after the company’s driving assessor had recommended that his hours be limited. Even if one accepts that Mr Chander’s accident and passenger complaint rate over the period 2012-2015 did not put him amongst the worst of the drivers, the fact remains that he should have been referred twice for driver assessment during this period but was not. Further, the ecodriver champion wanted to see Mr Chander in the summer of 2015 but was not given sufficient time off from his normal driving duties in order to carry out his responsibilities as champion. The deputy manager at Leamington gave instructions in April 2015 that Mr Chander should not be given too many days work per week, but these instructions were not followed for any significant period of time and the manager did not monitor whether they were being followed. Mr Chander was seconded to the Rugby depot without Rugby being made aware of these instructions. When Mr Chander’s loan ended, the Rugby depot recommended that he be used less or not at all in the future, but this recommendation was not read in time by its addressees. Throughout this period, Mr Chander, a 77 year old driver, was regularly working a seven day week, often around 72 hours a week (I accept that these figures relate to duty time, not driving time). Surely this should have rung alarm bells with managers even if Mr Chander’s driving record had been good (which it was not)

It is clear to me from the evidence that the tragic incident on 3 October 2015 was not the result of a one-off error by one person within the company, but of a series of errors, committed over time by several people at various levels within the company, and of a system which was not adequate to identify and address those errors before they had tragic consequences. As the judge concluded, the culpability of the company is very high. It would not be appropriate for me to make any different finding, nor would I wish to do so.

 

FINDING


The company has been convicted of offences against the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. I find therefore that it has clearly failed to fulfil its undertaking to ensure that the laws on the driving and operation of vehicles are observed (Section 17(3)(aa) of the 1981 Act refers).


Regulatory action


In considering whether to take regulatory action against the company, and if so the degree of such action, I must first myself the Priority Freight question: how likely is it that the company will comply in future? In this instance, I recognise that am not – as I so often do - dealing with a company whose compliance record is generally poor. Indeed, its compliance record generally is very good. I have therefore asked myself the more specific question of how confident I can be that there will be no repeat of the circumstances in which the company failed to identify a potentially dangerous
driver and allowed him to continue to drive and work for excessive hours. Having heard the evidence of the company’s new procedures, under which Mr Chander as a casual driver could not have been employed at all, and (equally importantly) the improved monitoring of such procedures, I conclude that on balance I can be confident that there will be no such repetition. As such, I conclude that revocation of the operator’s licence would be disproportionate and inappropriate.

In considering regulatory action, I have also borne in mind that, if I were to revoke the company’s licence or impose a substantial period of suspension, there could be a perverse result in that some or all of its services might be taken over by other operators some of which might have less rigorous standards and/or driver safety  procedures than Midland Red (South) Ltd has now developed. Or, if large numbers of people were to be displaced from the company’s bus services into cars or onto bicycles for a period of time, the roads would be more congested and incidents made more, rather than less, likely.


However, the scale of the company’s culpability (marked with a £2.3 million fine from the court) is such that issuing a simple warning – regulatory action at the lightest end of the spectrum – would also be inappropriate. I have sought therefore to determine upon regulatory action which is significant enough i) to send the necessary strong signal to the company that its level of failure has been unacceptably high - with disastrous consequences for the people killed or injured in the incident and their families; while ii) also taking account of everything the company has done since to make sure that the same mistakes cannot be repeated and iii) avoiding action which might reduce the safety of passengers and pedestrians by moving some business to some operators who do not have the improved procedures or shifting traffic to other modes.


I have concluded that a variation of the company’s licence so that the number of vehicles it can operate is reduced from 261 to 200 for a 28 day period is the form of regulatory action which strikes the right balance. This regulatory action is a strong warning to the company that it has failed to come up to expectations in ensuring the safety of its staff and other road users, and that if such a failure is ever repeated then the complete loss of its right to operate would be the likely consequence.


I have allowed a reasonable period of time for the company to prepare for the variation and make any necessary alternative arrangements.


Transport managers


 I did not see any evidence to suggest that the failures of any individual transport manager were any more serious than those of the company as a whole. The transport managers named on the licence in October 2015 (Messrs Burd, Mortimore, Medlicott and Morgan) were not personally involved in any of the poor decision making recounted above, although they bear some collective responsibility for the lack of robustness in the company’s procedures and for its failure to ensure the procedures were properly applied. Equally, however, they deserve credit for the
company’s improved procedures and for its serious response to the incident and determination to learn lessons. I find that the removal of their repute would be disproportionate: it is consequently retained.

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