SCOTLAND’S Traffic Commissioner has revoked the bus operator’s licence held by Inverclyde businessman Peter Harte.
Joan Aitken held a public inquiry after Harte Buses stopped running its Largs to Braehead service earlier this year when HM Revenue and Customs were granted a sequestration order because of a £65,000 debt.
Mr Harte, who was awarded an MBE for his services to the Scottish bus industry, represented himself at the inquiry explaining that the company’s financial problems stemmed from a range of adverse matters happening in quick succession.
There had been a fault with a vehicle which led to it being off the road for three months during a busy period and another vehicle needed a part which took overlong to arrive. This meant unexpectedly high expenditure on vehicle maintenance.
His service wasn’t as busy in the winter because of bad weather and there had been road diversions which also affected the profitability of his service.
The inquiry also heard that Mr Harte was badly affected when the Scottish Government ran out of concessionary fares funds towards the end of the last financial year; 90per cent of his passengers were concessionary passengers.
In her inquiry report, Miss Aitken said: “He had taken a great pride in his buses and in the quality of service and had many testimonials in support. He would love to continue to serve the people in Largs. He liked to have nice buses and nice drivers. He simply ran out of money to fund the operation.”
Miss Aitken said she had no choice but to revoke Mr Harte’s operating licence because he was a sequestered person but she took the view that Mr Harte was still of good repute which means he has not been disqualified form working in the bus industry.
Miss Aitken said: “Mr Harte has not sought to elude the regulatory regime. He has been open with my office and attended at the public inquiry to explain his situation. I have decided that I will not make any order against Mr Harte’s repute and thus disqualification does not arise. However, I warn him as to his repute and that any future application for an operator’s licence most likely will have to be considered at public inquiry.”
Mr Harte said he hoped to be involved with a new company – possibly as transport manager -- re-starting the route with his former employees. He added: “A lot of people have been left without a service and it would be good to get something started as soon as possible.”