Former bosses of collapsed bus company GHA Coaches have been summoned to appear before a public inquiry. Gareth Lloyd-Davies, Berwyn Davies and Darrell Barron, all transport managers at the former GHA Coaches firm which went out of business earlier this summer, have been asked to attend the probe being held by Nick Jones, traffic commissioner for Wales. It will investigate how the company was run and whether any action needs to be taken. That could include fines or disqualification from holding a bus or truck operator s licence being handed out to bosses. The inquiry will be held at Welshpool Town Hall on September 20. A statement issued by the Office of the Traffic Commissioner said: On September 20, the traffic commissioner for Wales, Nick Jones, will hold a public inquiry into the public service vehicle operator licences held by GHA Coaches Ltd. The company holds two licences authorising the use of 146 vehicles in Wales (with bases in Ruthin, Corwen, Ruabon and Wrexham) and 80 vehicles in the North West of England (with bases in Chester, Middlewich, Winsford and Macclesfield). The firm has ceased operating vehicles. The inquiry has been called to consider bus monitoring exercises carried out by Bus Users Cymru and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). The traffic commissioner will also consider a DVSA report on the company s vehicle maintenance standards. The company s transport managers, Gareth Lloyd-Davies, Darrell Barron and Berwyn Davies, have also been called to the inquiry. GHA Coaches stopped trading on the night of July 13, leaving passengers and school children without transport. More than 300 people working for the company were told the firm was closing by text message. When drivers turned up at GHA Coaches the next day they were told the firm had been placed in administration. A total of 11 routes across the county were left without services, leaving passengers in the lurch as councils frantically tried to find replacements. Administrators were appointed after the business, which operated public and school bus services across the county as well as Clywd, Flintshire, Denbighshire and Cheshire, received a winding-up petition over unpaid taxes. Local authorities had to find alternative companies to step in and run the school routes at short notice. Forty-eight people who had worked for GHA Coaches have now approached solicitors with a view to pursuing action against the firm for failing to consult with them before the redundancies. The inquiry hearing at Welshpool Town Hall will start at 10.30am on September 20.
Reference Library – Shropshire
A bank s decision to withdraw overdraft facilities from a Shropshire truck and plant hire group after its director was sentenced to eight months in jail contributed to the company s administration, new documents have revealed. Stephen Paul Holding, aged 48, was jailed for eight months at Shrewsbury Crown Court in January 2016 after an investigation found he had helped falsify ten of his driver’s records over a seven-month period. Tachograph cards installed in some of the company’s vehicles had been altered or removed to give the impression of a changeover, but drivers had been working unlawful hours. Holding pleaded guilty to knowingly aiding and abetting drivers to falsify records and paying drivers for exceeding their hours. In May, Nigel Price and Gareth Prince of Begbies Traynor in Birmingham were appointed joint administrators to Holding’s businesses; SP Holding Services Ltd, SP Holding Group Ltd, SP Holding Ltd, SP Holding Tractor Hire Ltd and SP Holding Workshop Ltd. A new report looking into the insolvencies said NatWest withdrew an overdraft facility following the conviction of Stephen Holding, which impacted cash flow. The businesses, namely SP Holding Tractor Hire and SP Holding Services, had also been suffering increased cash flow pressure due to a high cost base. This was down to finance agreements relating to the companies’ fleets. Ahead of the administration, director Beverley Fenton, who took over from Holding following his conviction, concluded that the businesses could not meet their liabilities without a significant cash injection, which was not possible. Unsecured creditors of the three main trading arms of SP Holding Group now look set to miss out. A report for SP Holding Tractor Hire revealed unsecured creditors are owed 333,678, while SP Holding Workshop creditors are owed 87,656. In the case of SP Holding Services, unsecured creditor claims, including those from employees who were made redundant, total 258,784. Sufficient funds may be available for a distribution, but is dependent on recoveries made from the company’s sales ledger.
Ride-hailing service Uber will start transporting passengers with self-driving cars on the streets of Pittsburgh in the next few weeks. Its autonomous Ford Fusions will have human back-up drivers but will transport passengers just like normal Uber vehicles, the company said. Uber has a self-driving research lab in Pittsburgh and is working on autonomous technology. Uber and Volvo also announced a 300 million dollar ( 228 million) deal for Volvo to provide SUVs to Uber for autonomous vehicle research. Eventually the Volvo SUVs will be part of the self-driving fleet in Pittsburgh. Volvo will develop base vehicles for research and both companies will develop autonomous vehicles on their own. The ride-hailing company also announced that it is acquiring a self-driving start-up called Otto that has developed technology allowing big rigs to drive themselves. The moves are intended to significantly accelerate Uber into the race to deploy self-driving vehicles to the public. It is also the latest tie-up between Silicon Valley, ride-hailing firms and major carmakers. Uber’s chief executive Travis Kalanick, has said the ride-sharing company’s future – and the future of all transportation – is driverless. With the acquisition of Otto, Uber gets a fast infusion of self-driving expertise, including Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski. Self-driving technology is not ready for the masses. Hurdles include software that is not yet good enough for public rollout, safety concerns raised by state and federal regulators, and uncertainty over society’s readiness to trust robot drivers. But the race is on. Large tech and car companies suggest they could start selling self-driving cars within three to five years. If history is any guide, that push will begin with high-end models that few people can afford. Uber’s vast on-demand auto fleet could presumably bring the technology to ordinary people more quickly. Uber, however, is not alone in the race for autonomous vehicles, and is not even a leader. The company’s primary US competitor, Lyft, received a 500 million dollar ( 380 million) investment from GM earlier this year. Those two companies said they plan to put self-driving vehicles into Lyft’s fleet on a small scale some time in the next year. GM also bought itself some self-driving expertise in March with the acquisition of a company called Cruise Automation. This week, Ford announced – in Silicon Valley, not Detroit – that it intends to have a self-driving vehicle on the road by 2021. The car will have neither a steering wheel nor pedals and will be rolled out for commercial ride-hailing services, not directly to consumers. Google’s parent company Alphabet is even further ahead in pursuing driverless cars that offer passengers little control beyond an emergency stop button. Google began testing its fleet of prototype self-driving cars on public roads in 2009. Though the Google car project just lost its director, Chris Urmson, it has a big head start. Its leaders have suggested they could launch public pilot tests of cars with no steering wheels or pedals in the next year or two. In the small but growing community of self-driving vehicle experts, Mr Levandowski is a founding father. Putting robotic vehicles on the road has been his obsession. One earlier effort, a self-driving motorcycle named Ghostrider, is now in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Until the start of this year, Mr Levandowski was at Google. He left to found Otto with two other former Google employees. After outgrowing the leafy Palo Alto neighbourhood where they worked on their first rigs, Mr Levandowski moved his headquarters to San Francisco and came out of stealth mode by posting a video of a truck driving itself down a Nevada highway. An actor sitting at a table in the cab jots notes on a pad of paper. Mr Levandowski’s business proposition was straightforward. Big rigs spend most of their time on highways, making them a relatively easy problem to solve. Unlike bustling city streets, highways have well-marked lanes, little or no cross-traffic, and other features that make them far easier for a self-driving vehicle to navigate. Indeed, Mr Levandowski was commuting to work in a Google self-driving Prius several years ago. AP