Bus firm Xplore Dundee has been fined £35,000 after a shortage of drivers caused widespread disruption to services in September.
Joan Aitken, the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland, told bus firm bosses at a public inquiry today that the shortage of about 20 drivers “should have been anticipated”.
Xplore managing director Christine McGlasson and transport managers George King and Frank Sheach appeared at the hearing, held at Ashton Hall inside Caird Hall.
They were accompanied by Tom Stables, managing director of parent company National Express UK.
The firm said that the lack of drivers had been caused in part by unexpected changes in staffing earlier in the year.
Speaking on behalf of Xplore, Andrew Banks told Ms Aitken: “It seems to be the case lately that bus drivers go on holiday later in the year than other people, in late August and September.
“You are always going to have a bit of a shortage at that time of year.
“What happened here is that the company was already about 20 drivers short.
“In August, one of the people involved in managing the situation left quite suddenly.
“At the same time another person responsible went off sick and didn’t come back to the business in the end.
“The company did the right thing and brought some extra resources and drivers in from other parts of the business.
“But being the time of year that it was, most of these drivers had some holidays that they had previously booked and had reasonable expectations of taking.
“It was breaking point (for Xplore), and it broke.”
Ms McGlasson added that, initially, the firm hadn’t expected the disruption to be as sudden as it was.
She said: “We were aware during the summer that we were short but it wasn’t to the extent where it wasn’t manageable at that point.”
The firm had hoped to escape severe punishment from the Traffic Commissioner and asked for a written warning.
However, Ms Aitken – who fined Xplore £8,700 in June after services failed to run on time – said a message had to be sent in order to retain public confidence in regulators.
She said: “The impact on the city and its travelling public cannot be underestimated and should have been anticipated. I have to have credibility with the public.”