A LANGUAGE school has been banned from running transport after a driver was found reeking of cannabis as he prepared to take students to Heathrow in a minibus with no MOT.
Cavendish School of English was already being “given a chance” after a sister business lost its licence over a crash in which a bus collided with a railway bridge, ripping off the roof.
But despite having a restricted licence to operate only two vehicles, its in-house transport operation was in “a position of total chaos” where “all management control has failed”, an inquiry found.
Kevin Rooney, traffic commissioner for the west of England, banned the school and director Marcus Barber from holding an operator’s licence or being involved with a licensed operator for three years.
The school says it disagrees with aspects of the judgement and intends to appeal.
Mr Rooney said a police officer “came across” the school’s minibus on July 14 this year and found its driver, Justin Fayer, in place to take a group of language students to Heathrow.
“Mr Fayer was not the holder of a driver Certificate of Professional Competence, nor did he have entitlement to drive the minibus for hire or reward. Mr Fayer smelt strongly of cannabis, was arrested, admitted to being a regular cannabis user and subsequently failed a drugs test,” Mr Rooney’s report said.
The minibus’s MOT had expired seven weeks previously. With no MOT and a driver who was not entitled to drive that class of vehicle, it was “highly likely” the insurance would have been invalidated, Mr Rooney said.
The school did not have the equipment for the tachograph monitoring that it had pledged to do when its licence was granted 18 months before.
Mr Rooney wrote: “Why the operator should now so blatantly ignore the most basic of requirements is beyond me. What is clear is that almost no attempt whatsoever was made to comply with the most basic licence undertakings.”
Cavendish School of English had been given a licence to operate two vehicles from its base in Cavendish Road, Bournemouth, in February 2018.
A sister business, Cavendish Liner Ltd, had lost its 12-vehicle licence in 2017 after a crash in which a double-decker was driven into a railway bridge at Clingan Road, Southbourne, tearing off the roof. Four children on the top deck managed to get out of the way before the impact.
Director Nathan Barber, attending because Marcus Barber was out of the country, told the inquiry that the school’s transport was largely provided by two German coaches, but it had a 16-seat minibus for taking students back and forth from Gatwick and Heathrow.
His colleague Chris Evans said he had been brought in to reduce Nathan Barber’s workload and that a systems overhaul was under way.
Mr Evans had told the inquiry that during the peak summer season, “the atmosphere is one of controlled chaos; management are best by daily enquiries and requests in the hundreds, and we cope calmly and efficiently in the maelstrom”. He added: “A series of minor emergencies occur and are resolved.”
But Mr Rooney said: “This is not a description of a competent transport office.”
He added: “Rather, it reflects a position of total chaos where all management control has failed”.
He concluded: “This is not an operator that I can trust to comply in the future. It will not be put out of business by the loss of the licence but, even if that were to be the case, this is an operation that is so poor that it would need to come to an end in any event.
“In granting this small restricted licence, I was giving the business a chance to show that it could run compliantly and professionally. The result has been entirely the opposite and is a strong indicator that Cavendish School of English, and those who run it, should not be in transport. The public, and the students, deserve protection. No parent should have to worry that their child might be carried in a vehicle that has no MOT driven by an unlicensed driver under the influence of cannabis.”
Mark Williams, group editor for industry magazine Bus & Coach Buyer, said: “Parents and schools hiring buses and coaches can be reassured that well-run and safety-conscious systems exist to ensure that bus and coach operators comply with stringent regulations. However, some companies do not, and a record of any action taken against those companies can easily be checked on-line at gov.uk/government/collections/traffic-commissioner-notices-and-proceedings which has a searchable database of licensed operators.”