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Big Lemon Bus Company to face public inquiry over safety
11:00am Thursday 13th March 2014 in News
AN ECO-friendly bus company is facing a public inquiry over the safety and alleged illegal use of its fleet. The Big Lemon Bus Company, which operates in and around Brighton and Hove, will answer three complaints at the hearing on March 26.
The first accuses the company of blocking a highway during a high- profile fracking protest.
The second is concerned with an allegedly faulty maintenance inspection of the vehicle following the demonstration.
The third relates to a tyre defect said to have been found on one of the fleet based in Brighton.
A spokesman for the traffic commissioner said three options were available if the company was found in breach.
He said: “The commissioner can look to remove the company’s licence – that is the most serious option.
"The licence could also be suspended or they could be a forced to reduce the number of vehicles.”
The first complaint concerns the use of one of the Big Lemon buses at an anti-fracking demonstration at Barton Moss, near Manchester.
Tom Druitt, the company’s owner who drove the vehicle from Brighton to Lancashire for the protest, confirmed a complaint had been lodged by Greater Manchester Police.
He said: “They have alleged to the traffic commissioner that the vehicle was obstructing the highway. “Following their complaint there was a judgement as to whether it was a highway and it was found it wasn’t.
“Their complaint is now superseded by this judgement – that hasn’t yet filtered down to the commissioner.”
An inspection of the vehicle, carried out by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency followed, during which a number of defects were found.
Mr Druitt said the Agency claims that some of the lockers were broken, the front door did not work, one of the windows was smashed and a seat- belt was broken.
The company denies responsibility for the alleged defects.
Mr Druitt said: “I drove it up from Brighton the night before and I inspected it. It had no defects.
“I can only conclude that, if there were any defects, during the rough and tumble with police it was damaged. Five protesters were locked onto the vehicle during the day.”
He added: “We are proud of our record. We’ve never had any accidents as a result of any maintenance faults, we’ve never had any injuries and no incidents of any damage.
“We take maintenance very seriously and we have changed our defect reporting system to make it more specific.”
The inquiry will be held at Ivy House in Ivy Terrace, Eastbourne.
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