A BUS company that provides services for several Bolton schools has been rapped at a public inquiry for vehicle maintenance failures.

Traffic commissioner Simon Evans cut the number of operators’ licences Atlantic Travel holds from 30 to 27 after finding it had not “acted promptly and appropriately” following a previous warning about its procedures.

Mr Evans recorded a “formal warning” over the Mikar Business Park-based company and its transport manager Rehanna Dean.

Atlantic Travel provides nine services across six schools in or on the fringe of the borough, including St Joseph’s, Canon Slade, St James’, Mt St Joseph, Thornleigh Salesian and Walkden High.

The firm had an “unsatisfactory maintenance investigation” last August, and was criticised for incomplete records, an absence or brake tests and the use of a vehicle not under MOT.

The system by which drivers report vehicle defects was found to be ineffective and a number of prohibitions – a notice stipulating buses have to be taken off the road until a mechanical problem is fixed – were also issued.

But director Yasser Dean described the basis of the inquiry as “minor maintenance and paperwork-related issues” and said the firm could assure the public that “everything is above board and all the necessary systems are in place.”

He added: “As a company the safety of our passengers is paramount and we would never do anything to jeopardise this and to ensure that we are always complying with all the required safety standards we carry out regular internal and independent audits.”

But Mr Evans told the inquiry: “I am minded to reflect the operator’s failure to act promptly and appropriately upon the warning, previously given both to it and its transport manager, after the initial maintenance inspection, and upon the outcome of the first audit report.

“By taking the steps which I take, I prevent expansion of operations at this time, until I am satisfied that this can be done against a background of compliance.”

Following the inspection a strong warning was issued to Atlantic and Ms Dean, and the firm was instructed to arrange an independent audit by the end of November.

This was done on time, but the auditor found that the maintenance contractor’s inspections were recorded on forms used for large goods vehicles, rather than passenger carrying vehicles, some records were incomplete or inaccurate and there was “no evidence of roller brake testing”.

Some irregularity regarding tachograph use was also noted.

The calling-in letter for the Public Inquiry referred to a failure to fulfil statements made on application, a and a breach of undertakings relating to record-keeping.

It also raised issues over the reputation of Atlantic Travel, as well as its financial standing and professional competence.

Transport manager, Rehana Dean was also called before the Inquiry in relation to her professional competence.

However, in his conclusion, Mr Evans said he was happy that “enough positive steps have been taken for me to be satisfied that the repute both of this operator and its transport manager remains intact.

“Financial standing is met and professional competence is retained.

He continued: “I am however minded to take some regulatory action against this licence by varying the condition attached to it limiting the number of vehicles that may be operated.”

Atlantic Travel must commission and carry out an operator’s licence compliance audit in October at its own expense.

The report must be provided to the Traffic Commissioner’s office by November and the firm must indicate how it intends to implement any recommendations arising from the audit.