Council terminates Northumberland bus company contracts

Howard Snaith coaches.

Howard Snaith coaches.

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A coach operator, whose staff were at the centre of a lengthy trial over false tachograph records, will have all its Northumberland County Council transport contracts terminated.

Otterburn-based Howard Snaith provides school transport and other public bus services in Northumberland.

Now the council has decided to end all its contracts following the Crown Court conviction and sentencing of a number of staff last month.

The school transport routes will be retendered and the process is expected to be completed within 10 weeks. In the meantime, Howard Snaith will continue to operate the contracts as normal.

Company director Alison Snaith pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice, while a number of drivers admitted offences of creating false tachograph records.

The matter has been referred to the Traffic Commissioner, who could ban the convicted drivers and may look at the company’s operating licence. An outcome is not expected before June.

The future of the current school contracts that Howard Snaith coach firm has with Northumberland County Council had been uncertain since late April.

Now, in a letter sent to all county councillors, Barry Rowland, the county council’s executive director of local services, said: ‘Following careful consideration Northumberland County Council has taken a decision to terminate all its contracts with Howard Snaith for the provision of home to school transport and supported public bus services.

‘As a council, our overriding duty is to maintain public confidence in what we do. As a result of the convictions and sentences and having taken all issues in to account, the council is of the opinion that the company is in material breach of contract. As a result we have served notice on the contractual relationship we have with the company.

‘Their home to school transport routes will be retendered in an orderly but speedy manner and new transport providers appointed as matter of priority. We anticipate that this process will be fully completed within 10 weeks, ie by the end of this school year but in some cases earlier.

‘We will inform parents and schools when changes to transport provider are confirmed. In the meantime, Howard Snaith will continue to operate their contracts as normal.’