Bus crash driver loses licence

A minibus driver involved in the M62 crash which killed teenager Bethany Jones has lost his operator’s licence after he was found to have been using uninsured vehicles.

James Johnson, 63, of Wyke, was arrested and bailed after the hen party minibus he was driving for Batley company Prestige 2000 collided with a lorry on the motorway near Pontefract in April.

He lost his operator’s licence after an investigation into his own company – unrelated to Prestige 2000 or the M62 crash – following an incident last October when a wheel fell off one of his vehicles.

A public inquiry heard that the Vehicle and Operator services agency (VOSA) started the investigation into his transport business after the incident in October.

The agency found he had no valid insurance for the vehicles he operated at the time. After a maintenance investigation, Alan Lodge, VOSA examiner, reported a “dire state of affairs”, which included a badly worn tyre, the inquiry heard.

North Eastern Traffic Commissioner Kevin Rooney disqualified Mr Johnson indefinitely from applying for or holding an operator’s licence at the inquiry, which was held earlier this month.

At the time of the M62 crash on April 26, Mr Johnson was not working for his own business, or under his own licence, but for Prestige 2000 company.

Mr Rooney said Mr Johnson’s operation was “one of the worst I have come across”.

He said: “Vehicles are so dangerous that wheels have fallen off. There is little documentary evidence of maintenance systems and no evidence to support a contention that relevant documentation has been stolen.”

Mr Johnson did not appear at the public inquiry but submitted a letter stating he no longer wished to retain his operator’s licence.

In the letter Mr Johnson, who was injured in the M62 collision, said the crash had left him “in no condition to continue driving and apart from my present incapacity I am approaching the time to retire and do not feel that I will ever be fit enough, or have the wish to continue in business.”

Mr Johnson and a lorry driver, from St Helens, were both arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving following the M62 crash. They remain on bail while police inquiries continue.