Council axes school bus contract after two county operators lose their licences

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Two bus companies which carry pupils to Peterborough area schools each day have lost their licences to operate.

Judd’s Travel and Emblings Coaches, both of Bridge Garage, High Road, Guyhirn, had their operator’s licences revoked by the regulating traffic commissioner on the grounds of finance, repute and professional competence.

Now Cambridgeshire County Council has announced it has cancelled its contract with the firms that allowed them to transport pupils to and from schools.

Traffic Commissioner Richard Turfitt has stated the firms can continue to operate until June 9 to allow them to wind down safely.

Judd’s Travel director Mark Judd has also been disqualified from acting as a transport manager.

The contracts with the council will end on June 3.

The action comes after an inquiry heard there had been two inspections of both firms - one in April last year and another in January this year.

It was found that paperwork was below standard required for a company engaged in the transport of school children.

It was also found there was a failure to meet an undertaking for the inspection of brakes and that defects were discovered that should have been detected by drivers.

Judd’s Travel, which also runs buses between Peterborough and Whittlesey, disputes many of Mr Turfitt’s findings and plans to appeal against the decision.

Mr Judd has said the company will fold if it is not successful in its appeal before June 9.

Mr Judd said all 12 members of staff would be made redundant if a decision is not made in time, but that the company could re-start if it is successful in an appeal after June 9.

Emblings, which runs buses through Wisbech and March, is deciding whether to appeal the decision as well.

Peterborough City Council has no contract with either company.

Both companies currently transport children to and from Peterborough Regional College, Stanground Academy, Sir Harry Smith Community College, Cromwell Community College, Abbey College, Ashbeach Primary School, Thomas Clarkson Academy, Neale Wade Academy and the College of West Anglia.

A council spokesman said: “Emblings Coaches and Judd’s Travel both currently provide home to school and college transport on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council.

“In response to the judgement made by the traffic commissioner, both have been told that their contracts with the council will be terminated from June 3.

“The routes have already been put out to tender and we hope to have new operators in place by the end of May.

“This would comply within the timescales allowed by the traffic commissioner in making his decision to revoke their licences.”

`In his written report, Mr Turfitt stated: “Are these operators that should be put out of business? By reference to the shortcomings identified above, most notably the lack of attention paid to safety critical defects such as brakes, the answer must be yes.

“If I were a parent placing a child in the care of either of these operators, where management has shown that it cannot even manage the processes for preparing a vehicle for annual test, I would have real questions about the ability to ensure that safety critical components were properly maintained.

“I have concluded not only that both operations should be removed from the transport industry and have therefore lost their repute, but that Mr Judd has also lost his repute as a transport manager.

“Having exceptionally been allowed the opportunity to demonstrate that they could meet the requirements of the operator’s licence, and having failed to do so, it is difficult to contemplate how those entities might re-enter the transport industry and in particular in respect of the carriage of passengers.”

Responding to the decision by Mr Turfitt, Mr Judd said he disputed most of the findings but wanted to wait until the appeal before giving further details.

A statement from Emblings said: “We are very disappointed by the Traffic Commissioner’s decision to revoke the operator’s licence of Emblings Coaches Ltd.

“The business was started by J. W. Embling in 1956 and every effort has been made to provide a good service to the residents of Cambridgeshire since that time.

“A number of issues were raised by the Traffic Commissioner at a public inquiry and efforts were made to address his concerns.

“Although the Traffic Commissioner considered that improvements had not been made to his satisfaction, he decided that the company could continue operating until June 9.

“The company is considering whether to appeal against the Traffic Commissioner’s decision.”

On the decision to allow Judd’s and Emblings to continue running until June 9, Mr Turfitt added: “There would be very serious consequences indeed for those involved in this transport operation were they to fail to ensure the safety of employees and those who might be affected by their undertaking.

“I have therefore determined that a period of eight weeks in order to allow the safe running down of these operations is appropriate and I know that the county councils concerned will take steps to ensure the safe transfer of contracts.”