Scarborough bus company faces battery of criticism over man’s death

Shoreline Suncruiser bus leaves The Spa for trip along the seafront.
Shoreline Suncruiser bus leaves The Spa for trip along the seafront.
Have your say

A coach travel boss has apologised to Scarborough for risking passengers’ lives – with faults in every bus checked.

Tom Stephenson, transport manager, of Shoreline Suncruisers was labelled “incompetent” and “woefully short of the mark” as he was disqualified from his senior role for allowing the firm’s fleet to deteriorate.

Inspectors found an enormous list of faults with every bus they checked in the wake of contractor Neil Brown’s tragic death at its Queen Margaret’s Industrial Estate base.

Veteran deputy traffic commissioner Miles Dorrington, who imposed the punishment on Mr Stephenson, said it was “the worst case I have ever seen”.

He oversaw the public inquiry, which was called to air the findings of safety investigations carried out in the wake of the mechanic’s death, in which a vehicle he was working under collapsed.

He said there was “no inference” that the firm were to blame for the April tragedy, which was followed by a snap inspection of the firm’s buses to ensure they were safe.

Of the eight vehicles tested by Vosa and DVLA inspectors, all of them had faults which Mr Dorrington said were not superficial.

He added that in seven years of covering inquiries, he had never come across a firm with a perfect failure rate.

Mr Stephenson appeared at the Leeds hearing alongside his parents - and Shoreline’s directors - Jack and Rosemary Stephenson.

But it was the son who bore the brunt of the firm’s failings, with the inquiry hearing how despite long-standing concerns about MR Brown’s workmanship he still kept using his friend to look after their fleet.

Mr Dorrington repeatedly criticised the now shamed transport manager throughout the day long hearing.

He said:

• Stephenson allowed mistakes to be made on his watch

• His actions had “dented the pride” of his family, who had worked tirelessly to establish the business.

• He hadn’t kept close enough tabs on the work that had been carried out, despite that taking up the majority of his working week

Established in 1991 for seafront tours, the firm has since expanded and become one of the biggest local bus companies, offering services across the borough.

Founder Jack Stephenson was awarded an MBE for his community service and he told the hearing he was “proud” of his business.

“I do feel that we have moved heaven and earth to make ourselves a respected operator,” he said.

Tom Stephenson was disqualified from his post for at least six months - although he will still continue to work at his family’s company.

The businessman, who could have faced a five year ban, will undergo training while still on the payroll to bring his skills up to scratch.

An inquest into Neil Brown’s death is due to be held in Scarborough at the end of September.