Bus firm appeal is upheld

A Catch22 bus
A Catch22 bus

A Blackpool bus firm is free to continue operating services having had its appeal against a ban imposed by the Traffic Commissioner upheld.

Oakwood Travel, which now operates under the name Catch 22 Bus Ltd, was hauled before the industry watchdog last year accused of breaching the terms of its operating license.

Inspector Beverley Bell had ruled that the firms operating license should be withdrawn and that boss Philip Higgs should be banned from the industry for seven years.

Both decisions have now been thrown out, giving the firm – which operates a growing network of services on the Fylde coast – the chance to put its case to the Traffic Commissioner again.

The move followed the intervention of the Government Legal Team, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, which proposed ‘a Consent Order was agreed between the parties disposing of the proceedings’.

No date for a new inquiry has yet been set and Catch22 is now free to continue operating buses around Blackpool.

Philip Higgs, managing director of Catch22Bus Ltd said: “This is good news for our 25 staff, our customers and the future development of the business.”

It was agreed that a delay between the final hearing of evidence at the previous public inquiry and the issue of a final decision, in June last year, amounted to an ‘unfairness’ in the process.

The new enquiry will be held in front of a different Traffic Commissioner or Deputy Traffic Commissioner and the decision of the previous enquiry will form no part of the evidence at the new hearing.

Catch22 is rapidly expanding its operations to fill the void left after a number of bus services run by Lancashire County Council were scrapped.

Lancashire County Council, hit by central Government cuts, was forced to cut subsidies to 113 county routes.

In response, Catch22, which operates the number six bus linking Grange Park to Blackpool and the seasonal 21 Promenade service, recently extended its number 22 route to Fleetwood.

A new number 24 service has also been introduced linking Cleveleys to Poulton, via Thornton.

In spite of those changes – and the takeover of parts of the 74 route from Preston to Fleetwood by Preston Bus – concerns have been raised over large swathes of Wyre left without regular routes.

But Catch22 has announced plans for another new route serving the Cleveleys area.

The company is waiting for approval of plans for a new number 23 service which would link West Drive and Bourne Way to Cleveleys town centre. Proposals have been submitted to the Traffic Commissioner.

If successful, the new hourly route will start on May 8.