Coach firm reacts after its fleet is cut at public inquiry

A Howard Snaith coach.
A Howard Snaith coach.

A Northumberland coach business, which was at the centre of a conspiracy trial, has said it wants to 'draw a line under this whole sorry episode' after a public inquiry forced it to reduce its fleet.

Howard James Snaith and Partners, who are the licence holders of Howard Snaith of Otterburn, were called to the public inquiry in Leeds, which was held earlier this week, by the Office of the Traffic Commissioner for the North of England. Following the hearing, the Traffic Commissioner made a number of decisions, which included cutting the number of coaches the company has from 91 to 35, and attaching a number of undertakings to the firm's licence. However, the Traffic Commissioner has said that an increase to 50 vehicles will be considered favourably if supported by the employment of an additional full-time experienced transport manager and accompanied by a fresh and positive audit of tachograph and drivers' hours systems.

Earlier this year, staff from the firm faced a lengthy crown-court trial over false tachograph records. Alison Snaith pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice, while a number of drivers admitted offences of creating false tachograph records.

Speaking to the Gazette today, following the decision by the Traffic Commissioner, a company spokesman said: "We are now keen to draw a line under this whole sorry episode and look forward to moving forward in the future once again. We would like to thank all of the customers and staff who have stuck by us over the last few years and also thank Traffic Law Solutions and our legal team of Backhouse Jones and Tony Cross QC for their advice and assistance during this period.

"The business is now in the capable and safe hands of Howard Snaith Junior - a fact recognised by the Traffic Commissioner and we expect that within six months our fleet will increase to 50 vehicles, which size will fit perfectly with our business plan for the next few years.

"We welcome the decision of the Traffic Commissioner, who over the course of a two-day hearing this week, heard evidence that neither the company nor Alison Snaith had committed any offences in connection with its core business. A tiny proportion of drivers then employed by us did so. For a brief period in our history our systems let us down but the public should know that it was at a time when Alison Snaith was seriously ill having treatment for cancer during which we failed to exercise proper control.

"Since then and over the course of 5 years, our record has been exemplary. We are amongst the most compliant of coach operators, not just locally, but nationally. Our safety systems and maintenence plans are second to none. Howard Snaith has been a family firm for more than 40 years."

In the summer, Howard Snaith had all of its Northumberland County Council transport contracts terminated.