The owner of Bain’s Coaches has had his operator’s licence revoked after an investigation found he “deliberately” failed to keep vehicles up to standard – then faked documents to cover it up.
Douglas Bain has been running coaches in the north-east since 1975 and has previously run school buses to Kemnay Academy, Ellon Academy and others.
His firms have also run transport to gigs across Scotland and for local events, including most recently for the Oldmeldrum Highland Games.
Now Scotland’s transport commissioner Claire Gilmore has concluded Mr Bain’s knowledge his “severely lacking” and “out of date” following a public inquiry.
Mrs Gilmore also described the subsequent attempts to cover it up as a “serious case of dishonesty”, leaving her with no alternative but to revoke his operator licence.
She also suspended his manager’s licence for five years – ordering him to resit an exam if he wants it restored.
The licence ensures operators know the requirements of ensuring vehicles are safely maintained and operated.
What was happening at Bain’s Coaches and ABC Methlick?
Concerns about Mr Bain’s running of Oldmeldrum-based Bain’s Coaches and ABC Methlick have been ongoing since 2019.
At the time, the businessman received a warning from the transport commissioner after failing to cooperate with police about anti-social behaviour on “party buses”.
The most recent worries emerged after staff attempted to view files showing how many hours drivers had worked.
Officials made repeated surprise visits to view the documentation. On one occasion they found “no data of any substance” on computers, in other instances nobody was able to help and on another visit Mr Bain told staff not to allow access.
One examiner believed that neither Mr Bain or anyone working for him knew how to use the computer software, which had been maintained by his wife Wilma before her death in June 2020.
When staff finally got access to vehicle records in November 2022 they found the MOT failure rate was twice the national average.
Concerns were then raised brake testing was not being carried out properly with some documentation appearing to have been completed retrospectively.
Despite return visits, Mrs Gilmore concluded it was still not possible to tell if buses were getting “meaningful” brake testing.
Transport Commissioner: ‘Mr Bain was reluctant and unreliable witness’
In her conclusions, traffic commissioner Mrs Gilmore said she believed Bain’s Coaches had gained a commercial advantage over rivals by not complying with rules.
She said his actions have “undoubtedly prolonged the risk to road safety”, adding that she could not trust him to operate buses safely away from the gaze of investigators.
She wrote: “Mr Bain knew that falsifying vital maintenance documents by post-dating them was wrong.
“When given the opportunity at inquiry, he failed to deny that the documents had been falsified. He is also an operator of many years’ experience. On any objective view, his conduct in allowing such falsification falls to be classed as dishonest.
“Mr Bain has clearly obtained a commercial advantage over other operators and compromised road safety by deliberately failing, for a significant period of time, to keep his vehicles in a fit and serviceable condition or to ensure that the laws on driver hours were complied with.
“He attempted to conceal his failures by falsifying documentation.”
Mrs Gilmore stressed Mr Bain’s longstanding reputation and his decision to hire two people to assist in running the business were positives in his favour.
She added: “I also accept that the loss of his wife likely impacted on his ability to run his business.”
However, she concluded that his failure to cooperate with previous warnings meant she was no longer able to trust or believe his assurances – describing him as a “reluctant and unreliable” witness who “spoke under his breath” for much of the inquiry.”
She added: “Despite a previous warning for failure to co-operate with the authorities, he has done so again in attempt to cover up his shortcomings.
“All the evidence points to the fact that Mr Bain simply does not believe that the rules apply to him. For those reasons, he can no longer be trusted to operate.”
Bain’s Coaches has been contacted to comment.