Badger line route ban
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• Bus operators have been warned not to pull out of routes they have moved into competitively without fulfilling legal conditions and making proper plans.
Western traffic commissioner Major-General John Carpenter issued his warning after banning Bournemouth and Poole operator Badgerline from registering services on five routes. The company had dropped these routes after they failed to make enough money.
The services had begun in September 1987, operated by Badger Vectis for Badgerline, on routes where competitor Wilts and Dorset Bus did not run a frequent service, said Geoffrey Jones for the company. It did not anticipate the massive rise in the level of operation by Wilts and Dorset.
On one route frequency increased from three to 13 buses an hour — and this was not something that usually happened, said Jones. Badger Vectis had envisaged being in a break-even position by Christmas and being into profit thereafter. It was clear that both operators could not continue to operate at the same level, and if Badger Vectis had cut back its operations, it would have been left with too small an operation to be viable. It was obvious that Wilts & Dorset was prepared to continue its enhanced services for an indefinite period, despite the fact they must have been losing as much money as Badger Vectis.
On 10 March the Board of Badgerline Holdings decided to withdraw from the Poole/ Bournemouth operation. Notice was given to cancel the registrations and at the same time dismissal notices were given out to the staff. Within hours of that occurring, a representative of the Charlie's Cars operation of Shamrock & Rambler was outside handing staff employment application forms.
Jones said that on Friday 25 March lost distance stood at 0.9%. On the Saturday only 33 of the required 42 drivers reported for duty and lost distance was 27.5%. On Monday 28 March only 20 drivers reported for duty and lost distance was 55.4%.
Managing director Keith Niers said that early on the Tuesday morning it became clear that only 12 drivers at the most could be counted upon, and he took the decision to close down in the best interests of the public. He agreed that the company was aware it ought to give 42 days' notice of closure, but said it had not expected the mass exodus of drivers that occurred.
Carpenter accepted that the secondary decision by Allers was the correct one, but the Board's decision to withdraw the services was a calculated one made for commercial reasons, and severe action would be taken in future against any bus operator which, after moving into a competitive situation, decided to come out without fulfilling legal conditions.