GHA Coaches: Wheel came off school bus, public inquiry hears
The condition of some buses at a defunct Wrexham-based coach firm were so poor a wheel came off one while transporting school children, a public inquiry has heard.
Gareth Lloyd Davies, director of GHA Coaches, admitted some upkeep was neglected to keep services running.
Traffic Commissioner Nick Jones called it "shambolic" and said the directors should be disqualified.
About 320 people were made redundant when the firm collapsed in July.
It operated public and school services in Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham, and into Cheshire and Shropshire.
Mr Lloyd-Davies told a public inquiry inspections took place and the firm had a good MOT record until 18 months ago.
He blamed the departure of the chief engineer and unsatisfactory replacements for the lowering of standards.
The inquiry, sitting in Welshpool, Powys, heard that on 12 January, 2016, a wheel came off a 36-seater coach in Mold, Flintshire, and ran along the road, coming to rest on a roundabout on the A541.
"That appals me," said Mr Jones.
Evidence from Mark Williams, an inspector from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, showed he had asked to examine the wheel and found the wheel nuts had extreme wear.
It had been 14 weeks since there had been any maintenance on the vehicle.
"That's shambolic isn't it?" said the Traffic Commissioner to the company directors.
"You are not carrying out maintenance of your vehicles as required."
Mr Lloyd-Davies, who was also transport manager at the firm, agreed the buck stopped with him.
"I should have taken more control of what was happening in the company," he said.
'Finances before safety'
Over a two year period, 161 buses were checked and 49 were were deemed not worthy to be on the road.
"That's twice the national average, which is bad enough. It doesn't say much for the safety of people travelling on GHA coaches," said Mr Jones.
"Finances came before road safety, didn't they?"
"Possibly," replied Mr Lloyd Davies.
Administrators were appointed after the firm received a winding-up petition over unpaid taxes.
Mr Jones said he would make orders to disqualify the directors - Mr Lloyd Davies and his brother Arwyn - from holding operator licences and will decide the length at a later date.
He said they had put financial issues above road safety and should have closed down long before they did.
"A lot of people have lost their jobs...[the] failures come down to your negligence," he added.
A further inquiry will take place regarding their directorships of two other bus companies, RJ's of Wem and RML 2418.
Neither men would comment at the end of the hearing.