Local bus companies under closure threat

Local jobs are at stake as a bus company plans to appeal against a decision by the traffic commissioner to revoke its licence.

The Traffic Commissioner for Scotland Joan Aitken plans to revoke the licence of both James King Coaches in Kirkcowan and ABC Travel (Castle Douglas) Ltd, of which James King is a director, in July.

Damien Currie the Media Officer for the Traffic Commissioner in Scotland told The Galloway Gazette: “Following a public inquiry on May 2, in Edinburgh, Joan Aitken issued a written decision to both operators.

“As a result of the failure of both businesses to meet the mandatory financial standing requirements, Miss Aitken made orders to revoke their licences.

“Her decision means both operations will come to an end at 23:59 on Friday 11 July 2014.

“ABC Travel (Castle Douglas) Ltd operates eight local bus services. James King trading as James King Coaches operates 10 local bus services.”

When contacted by the Gazette James King said he was appealing through the legal process.

Dumfries and Galloway Council and SWestrans have released the following joint statement on the potential withdrawal of the operator’s licences: “The council and SWestrans were advised on 19 May that, following a Hearing on 2 May, the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland has revoked the PSV operator licences for two local firms, James King Coaches and ABC Travel Ltd. This will take effect at 23:59 on Friday 11 July 2014.

“The council and SWestrans have been advised that Mr James King has appealed this decision, and we await confirmation on whether the licence terminations will be suspended pending appeal.

“The council and SWestrans have contingency plans in place, and have sought tenders for school and local contracts. Tenders were received on 5 June, have been evaluated and are ready for award, should the licenses still be revoked after the appeal. Both SWestrans and the Council are in continuous contact with the companies as to the status of their appeals.

A SWestrans spokesperson said: “We keep the interests of the travelling public to the fore in this situation, and are keenly aware of the need to ensure continuity of service, as far as possible within the budgets available.”

A Council spokesperson said: “The Council has contracts with James King Coaches and ABC Travel to provide pupil transport. The Traffic Commissioner’s decision to revoke licences from 11 July means that there should be minimal disruption to school transport, and we would anticipate that the existing or replacement contracts will be in place on the first day of the Autumn term. However, we are also conscious that parents want information as far in advance as possible, and would hope to be able to provide more concrete advice as soon as possible. Parents should note that the Traffic Commissioner’s decision is based solely on financial standing and there are no safety of operational concerns with either operator.”

Commenting on the news, Galloway MP Russell Brown said: “There may well still be appeals to be considered but it is deeply disappointing that a family firm looks set to close. It will affect staff who may lose their jobs and also users of their services. In a region like ours, a large number of local people are dependent on public transport to go to work or to do their shopping and of course for children to get to school, so losing such services in a rural area could have a significant impact. I know that the council and SWESTRANs are working hard behind the scenes to look at alternative provision to at least partly fill any gap that would arise by the loss of this firm.”

Mid Galloway MSP Alistair Geddes commented: “Obviously, action is being taken to address matters. It will be imperative in doing so, that we achieve positive outcomes.”

Further information and an outline of the public service bus routes currently operated by James King Coaches and ABC Travel Ltd can be found at www.swestrans.org.uk