Traffic watchdog in mini-bus ruling

United Travel Co in Markinch

United Travel Co in Markinch

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A MARKINCH-based transport firm is to be banned from running mini-buses.

The prohibition on United Travel will come into force on February 1, after Scotland’s transport watchdog ruled that the partnership behind the business - Elizabeth Nicol, David McEwan and Jillian McEwan - had breached the terms of its operator’s licence.

Traffic Commissioner Joan Aitken’s decision came after a public inquiry held into taspects of the affairs of the High Street company which was held in Edinburgh last month.

At the hearing, the commissioner examined reports from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency) into driving and vehicle maintenance standards.

During an investigation into driver James Nicol, husband of partner Elizabeth Nicol, a traffic examiner found that he was not allowed to drive mini-buses with paying passengers because of a licence restriction.

But, driving records disclosed that he had undertaken this type of work between April, 2011 and January last year.

A VOSA vehicle examiner presented evidence to the commissioner revealing that the business had unsatisfactory maintenance standards during a visit in June, 2012, including that minibuses had not been given routine safety inspections at the agreed times.

In addition, there was evidence of a vehicle being used without a valid tax disc, which expired in March, 2012 and had not been rectified by the time of the maintenance investigation.

Miss Aitken also heard evidence to suggest that James Nicol was involved in the running of the business, breaching a promise made by the partnership that he would not be.

The partnership challenged this during the hearing.

Mr Nicol had an operator licence and his own vocational driving licence revoked in 1998, leading to the condition he would not be involved in the United Travel licence.

After reserving her decision at the conclusion of the inquiry, Miss Aitken issued a written decision outlining her reasons for revoking the licence.

She noted: “There has been a material change since this licence was granted.

“This material change is not curable in these inquiry proceedings and accordingly I will have to revoke the licence.

This I do because I am in absolutely no doubt that the entity operating these two minibuses is Mrs E. Nicol.“

She added that the licence holder had breached the condition preventing Mr Nicol’s involvement in the business, noting that in her view he was “very involved in the maintenance arrangements”.

The business also failed to satisfy licence undertakings.

The ‘Gazette’ contacted United Travel and spoke to Jillian McEwan, asking her if she wanted to comment on the commissioner’s ruling, to which she replied “no”.

Asked whether the company would be appealing the ruling, she added: “I’m just not saying anything.”