TWO Accrington bus operators, who blamed bus station problems for failing to operate services in accordance with their timetables, have been ordered to pay a financial penalty.
M and M Coaches of Craven Street and Pilkington's of Blackburn Road were called before the Traffic Commissioners at a Leeds disciplinary inquiry.
Bus compliance officers from the Vehicle Inspectorate said they had monitored 64 M and M journeys from Accrington bus station over two days last March. Thirteen operated outside the permitted parameters. On the same days they monitored 203 Pilkington journeys. Fifty-nine operated outside the parameters.
Mr Mohammed Iqbal, owner of M and M, said they were having problems with Accrington bus station as a lot of work was going on there.
The firm's manager Bob Tuffnell said the size of the bus station had been reduced by virtually 50 per cent and the number of buses flowing through had increased by 50 per cent.
After North Western Deputy Traffic Commiss-ioner Tom Macartney commented that M and M's principal problem was running early, with one bus as much as six minutes early, Mr Tuffnell said one of the drivers who had constantly run early had been sacked.
Mr John Pilkington, of Pilkington's, said the bus station was a nightmare. It had been knocked down and every stand had been changed six or seven times.
Bus station inspectors employed by the local authority sent buses out early on occasions. There was now no clock on the bus station and some drivers did not have watches.
Asked about the large number of instances of wrong destination signs being displayed, Mr Pilking-ton said that because they got penalised if drivers picked up passengers while queuing to get on the stand, they did not change the sign until they actually got on to the stand.
Asked about the operation of unscheduled journeys, he said they put on duplicate buses if drivers reported they were full, and to ensure there was a gap between the buses there was some early running.
Mr John Earnshaw, for the firm, said Accrington bus station was not user-friendly. There were only half the spaces available and buses were frequently unable to get to the stands. Late arrivals were due to poor access and congestion in the town.
Pilkington's was a well-thought-of firm and a successful business and it was trying to get it right.
Ordering the two firms to repay 20 per cent of the fuel duty rebate they had received over the past three months, the Deputy Commissioner said that early running was unacceptable in a professional industry. He regarded none of the excuses as being reasonable.