Local media in Manchester have reported that local operator First Manchester is being called before the region's traffic commissioner after an investigation by officers from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) into the punctuality of their services last year.
I understand that senior managers for First, which is Greater Manchester’s biggest bus firm, will appear before the region’s traffic commissioner, Beverley Bell, at her office in Wigan on Monday.
Bus firms are required to ensure that 95 per cent of their services are no more than one minute early or five minutes late. If First are found to have missed this punctuality target, they could face a fine. Section 155 of the Transport Act 2000 allows a traffic commissioner to impose a fine of up to £550 per vehicle on firms that fail to hit the 95 per cent target.
Around 100million passengers a year are carried on First Manchester's 900 buses, which operate around 300 bus routes and cover about 35million miles a year
First are remaining fairly tight-lipped about Monday's meeting but confirmed that First were attending the Traffic Commissioner’s office on Monday and would be discussing “... factors affecting the punctuality of some of our buses in Manchester some 12 months ago.”
Coun Roger Jones, a vice-chairman of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, seemed to confirm that time-keeping may have been something of an issue in the past. “We have asked First to improve their reliability because the public are making too many complaints about services not keeping to their timetable,” he told reporters.
It remains to be seen what the outcome off First's meeting with the Traffic Commissioner will be. But if they receive a substantial fine then it will probably only put more pressure of the company to recoup their losses by raising fares. It already announced in January this year that it was intending to increase fares by an average of six per cent because of increases in costs.