Perth bus company Stagecoach has been censured after wheels literally came off its coaches.
Traffic commissioner Joan Aitken issued formal warnings to three of Stagecoach’s companies the Perth, Fife and Glasgow operations and banned its Strathtay group from increasing its fleet of 160 vehicles for four months.
A public inquiry investigated a number of wheel-loss cases across the various companies, including several in Tayside and Fife.
In one instance in March 2010, police called the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency after a bus lost a wheel on the Kingsway in Dundee.
An investigation found that a number of factors had led to the wheel loss but concluded the wheels would have been “really loose” when the final driver took over and if he had checked he would have spotted their “insecurity” and the fact that some wheel nuts were missing.
The inquiry also heard about a catastrophic engine failure that led to a fire on a bus at Tealing on June 1. The hearing was told that the driver had been disciplined after he continued with his journey despite engine warning lights having come on.
Other incidents included a vehicle losing a wheel while travelling at 30mph on the A85 Perth road between Myreside and Methven on July 15.
Ms Aitken said, “Wheel loss incidents are of great concern to me. They have the potential to cause serious damage including death and injury and also damage to property.
“To the spectating public or those who suffer injury (in this case very fortunately there were no instances of anyone being hurt) they appear as self-evident failures of maintenance. They have to be investigated but most of all they have to be prevented.”‘Many-edged sword'”Stagecoach is a highly visible presence in Scotland’s bus-operating environment.
“This is a many-edged sword for the company it has developed to such a size that it carries thousands of passengers thousands of miles every day.”
A Stagecoach spokesman said the company accepted Ms Aitken’s finding and were implementing her recommendations.
He said, “The safety of our passengers and staff is our absolute priority. All of our vehicles are subject to a strict maintenance regime, which goes beyond what is required by law.
“Disciplinary action was taken where there was a failure to follow our strict safety processes.
“In addition, we worked closely with one of our main bus suppliers, Optare, who have subsequently reviewed and updated the guidelines issued in relation to wheel torque settings.
“We will continue to keep our safety arrangements under review and put in place any further measures that are necessary.”