Mr. Michael W. Betts, Traffic Commissioner for the Scottish Traffic Area.
© John G. Fender 2010
The Scottish Branch was privileged to be addressed by the Traffic commissioner at its December meeting. In an informative talk, Mr. Betts explained the current structure of the Traffic Areas and the introduction of a new computer system that will improve administration, enforcement and increase efficiency. He looked at the impact of the Human Rights Act and pointed out that the existing legislation met the requirements of this act. Procedures also had to be checked and these are also satisfactory.
Mr. Betts then looked at the requirements to become an operator, explaining the requirements for good repute, financial standing and professional competence. He pointed out that the CPC examination is now more stringent and that operators now have to demonstrate that the y have sufficient financial resources to run their business. An operator with a Standard International licence now required £5,400 for the first vehicle and £3,000 for each subsequent vehicle. Operators must show that they are financially sound at each licence review or when they are called to a Public Inquiry. All too often operators try to cut costs and this often leads to maintenance not being carried out, with consequential risks to safety.
Turning to devolution, Mr. Betts outlined the effects of the recent Transport (Scotland) Act, 2001. He pointed out that he was still responsible to Westminster for Operator Licensing but to Holyrood for the control of bus operations. The new legislation revised the requirements for the registration of bus services, now requiring 56 days notice to be given, with an added period of notice to the local authorities and Strathclyde PTE.
Looking at enforcement aspects, the Traffic Commissioner said that changes in procedures had led the Vehicle Inspectorate to target their resources more efficiently. He said that it was clear that some operators were unaware of their responsibilities and cited a number of cases to illustrate this. One area of prevalent infringement was the breaking of drivers hours regulations and both the driver and operator were responsible for any infringements. Vehicle impounding starts in April 2002 and this is awaited with interest.
Turning to bus operation, Mr. Betts thought that the new standards for bus operation due next year will have an impact. One of the major problems for bus travellers is the lack of information provided by bus companies and local authorities. There are some exceptions, but generally, it is difficult for the travelling public to get good information. Mr. Betts concluded his talk by briefly looking at the application of the Working Time Directive to transport and the introduction of legislation allowing Quality Partnerships between local authorities and bus operators, after which a lively question and answer session ensued.
The evening was rounded off by the traditional wine, mince pies and shortbread, along with sandwiches, tea and coffee. The Scottish Branch would like to thank the City of Edinburgh Council for its hospitality and to Graham Atkins for making the arrangements.
Report by John Fender.
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