Crash coach 'had history of faults': Regular driver of bus in which 10 people died 'made several complaints' about brakes and speed-limiter to his employer. Steve Boggan reports
Saturday 30 April 1994
Michael Shelton, who on the day of the tragedy switched with another driver who died in the crash, told an inquest yesterday that he had reported the faults to the Travellers Coach Company but nothing appeared to have been done about them.
His evidence to the hearing in Dover came as it emerged that Alan Fishenden, the company's service manager, had complained to Kassbohrer, the coach manufacturer, that most of the firm's 12-strong fleet had anti-lock brake system (ABS) defects.
The inquest was told that he wrote to Jules Shuttleworth, managing director of Kassbohrer (UK) Ltd, in February 1993, 10 months before one of the fleet collided with a van in the fatal accident, skidded and plunged down an embankment near Faversham, Kent. Nine American tourists and the driver, Leslie Golds, died.
Mr Shelton, the regular driver, said he had had continual problems with the vehicle since he began driving it in June 1992. Asked how many times he had filled in defect reports to engineers at the company's depot in Hounslow, west London, he said more than once but not more than 10 times. 'It was a recurrent problem' he told Richard Sturt, the coroner. 'The (ABS) warning light would come on when it should not have come on.'
Mr Shelton last complained in July 1993 by writing on the back of a worksheet 'Speed limiter not working. ABS not working', for a survey of faults for warranty purposes. Mr Sturt asked whether the speed- limiter had been working at that time. Mr Shelton said: 'That was one of the faults.'
The inquest heard earlier this week that the coach's top speed before the crash had been 78mph and that the speed-limiter, required by law to cut fuel to the engine at 70mph, had been disconnected. An examination of the vehicle after the crash also revealed an ABS fault.
Mr Fishenden said there had been ABS problems with warning lights, air gaps in the system's sensors and with water getting into enclosed components, but they had been rectified. He admitted that neither he nor his engineers knew how to detect or repair ABS faults at the time of the crash. He added that he had not been told of the problems relating to the coach that crashed.
Roland Barber, a Kent police accident investigator, said that when officers visited the Travellers Coach Company after the accident they found a book containing drivers' defect complaints. However, pages dated before 29 September 1993 were missing. The crash happened on 10 November.
Geoffrey Ince, the company's coach controller, said the pages had been missing before the book was ever used. A Department of Transport vehicle examiner said the company's safety inspection and records systems were 'inadequate'.
The hearing will end on Tuesday.
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