Two London bus operators have been ordered to reduce their bus fleets after separate safety failures which led to public inquiries by the Traffic Commissioner.
An inquiry against East Thames Buses was called after an incident where a wheel fell off one of its buses while in service.
The Traffic Commissioner for the South Eastern & Metropolitan Traffic Area, Philip Brown, heard that a total of 16 vehicles operated by the company were examined during the course of the investigation with one prohibition notice being issued.
The company has been ordered to reduce its fleet of buses from 170 vehicles to 150. The sanction is the least severe of those open the Commissioner and does not indicate faults with the number of withdrawn vehicles.
Mr Brown commented: “The reduction in vehicle capacity for this company is as a result of the seriousness of the offence. London bus users need to be confident that public transport in the capital is safe. The onus is on operators to improve their maintenance procedures and make safety systems more robust.”
Accepting the judgement of the Traffic Commissioner, an East Thames Buses spokesperson said: “The safety of our passengers is our top priority. Enhancements have been made to our maintenance regimes including reinforcing our Driver Defect reporting procedures.”
A separate inquiry involving London Central Buses heard evidence from a Metropolitan police officer about an incident where a wheel had also fallen off one of the company’s buses while it was in service.
The company was also ordered to reduce its fleet by 20 buses.
In evidence the company said training on this had improved since July 2008 when the wheel incident occurred. The company has since introduced additional and refresher training through the use of DVDs, courses and mentors.
Brown said “proper maintenance and dedication to ongoing safety checks is an essential commitment for passenger safety. It is the responsibility of public transport operators to ensure their records and their vehicle maintenance plans are effective and up to date.”
In a statement to MayorWatch, a spokesman for London Central Buses stressed the company takes “the maintenance of its fleet and the issues raised by the Traffic Commissioner’s enquiry extremely seriously.”
The spokesman added: “We were pleased to hear the Commissioner compliment London Central’s system for maintenance as being one of the best in the country. However it is recognised that further actions were required following an incident caused by human error last summer. As confirmed at the hearing, additional training and mentoring has already been introduced for both engineering and operating staff.”
“Although these actions have already been implemented we do respect and accept the Commissioner’s decision to take regulatory action.”
Neither ruling will affect the service the companies provide to commuters.