30 Mar 2018

Bus company to stay on road despite NZTA safety fears

6:23 pm on 30 March 2018

A Canterbury bus company has narrowly avoided losing its operating licence after concerns were raised about the safety of its vehicles.

Rescue helicopters at the scene of the crash in the Otira Gorge.

Rescue helicopters at the scene of the crash in the Otirā Gorge which involved a Travlon bus on 31 December 2015. Photo: Supplied

Earlier this month, the High Court ruled Travlon Coachlines could keep their licence until May, but must then re-apply.

Travlon, a tourist and school bus company that employs about 30 people, came under Transport Agency scrutiny in 2015 after one of its buses rolled and crashed into an oncoming car in the Otirā Gorge on New Year's Eve.

Thirteen passengers and the occupants of the car were injured.

NZ Transport Agency said it found the brakes had not been fitted correctly, despite the company's mechanic admitting he had checked them only two days prior.

A mechanic currently faces a charge of injuring by an unlawful act.

In February 2017, a second Travlon bus crashed on the Akaroa Highway, injuring 26 people.

A fault with the brakes was found again, however it is not known if this was what caused the crash.

NZTA conducted three audits of the buses over a year.

The first audit found 18 out of Travlon's 27 buses had faults. Four months later the second audit found 22 out of 33 buses were faulty. The third audit in April last year found 14 out of 20 buses to be faulty.

In December last year, NZTA tried to immediately cancel Travlon's licence, but the company appealed to the High Court.

A court date was set for May but on 5 March a Travlon bus carrying 30 school children was stopped by police and deemed unsafe.

It was then issued with a non-operational order.

The hearing was escalated and nine days later the case was heard in court.

The mechanic in question stopped working for Travlon around the time the school bus was stopped by police.

Travlon owner Alex Bruce said the proposal to revoke the licence was unjustified.

He said during the NZTA audits, vehicles that were parked up for the winter were examined and some vehicles were audited that were off the road already because of known faults.

Travlon mostly had a five-star Operator Rating System and was committed to complying with the law, he said.

Mr Bruce also said he was satisfied with the mechanic who has since left the company saying he had a "good reputation and 30 years experience."