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Sussex bus firm could be banned over safety
11:10am Thursday 31st January 2013 in News
A school bus firm could be banned from the road after investigators found evidence that its coaches were unsafe.
Heritage Coaches, which has agreements with three schools in Sussex, faces three separate inquiries into safety standards at a special hearing next month.
But the company’s transport manager said customers had “no reason to worry” and claimed his vehicles had already been given the all-clear.
On Friday, January 25, 55 youngsters aged nine and ten escaped from a dramatic blaze on board a Heritage double-decker as it travelled along the A29.
There is no suggestion the engine fire was linked to any safety shortcomings.
In August, Department of Transport investigators examined the firm’s coaches during an unannounced spot check.
A spokesman for the London and South East Traffic Commissioner said evidence of “safety-critical mechanical defects” were found on some vehicles, which were then banned from the road.
He said: “Evidence of significant faults was found on more than one vehicle.
“Also, they are required to inspect their vehicles every few weeks.
“There was evidence that the checks weren’t happening and that inspections weren’t carried out.”
The Partridge Green-based company took over some routes from bus firm Countryliner after it went bust last year, including Uckfield to Bolnore, Brighton to Haywards Heath, a Burgess Hill town service and a route from Haywards Heath to Cuckfield.
It also ferries children on trips from schools across Sussex, including in Brighton and Hove, Arundel and Worthing.
It has agreements with St Paul’s Catholic College in Burgess Hill, Warden Park School in Haywards Heath and Steyning Grammar.
Christopher Stepe, Heritage’s transport manager, will defend the firm’s position at the Traffic Commissioner hearing in Eastbourne on February 1.
He also faces a separate hearing to determine his fitness to continue in his role.
If Heritage is found to have acted improperly, the company could have its licence suspended or withdrawn.
Mr Stepe said: “This is simply not true. We had an issue with one coach in July when they came in and checked.
“Our vehicles were given the all clear in August.
“There’s no reason why anyone should be worried.”
Video filmed at the scene of the Storrington schoolchildren's coach on fire.
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