Executives 'not told of coach faults': M2 crash firm 'put great emphasis on safety'

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The Independent Online
EXECUTIVES of the company at the centre of the M2 coach tragedy denied yesterday that they knew the vehicle was defective for more than a year before it crashed.

Anthony Grayson, managing director of the Travellers Coach Company, said he had not been told the coach's driver had complained for 13 months about a faulty speed limiter and defective anti-lock brakes.

His operations manager, Neil Pegg, said he did not recall any specific complaints being made to him, even though an inquest in Dover, Kent, was told last Friday that Michael Shelton, the vehicle's regular driver, made a number of written complaints between June 1992 and July 1993.

Mr Shelton swapped with another driver, Leslie Golds, 54, for a journey to Canterbury on 10 November last year. The coach collided with a van on the M2 near Faversham, Kent, and plunged down an embankment, killing Mr Golds and nine American tourists.

Yesterday, Mr Grayson told the coroner, Richard Sturt, that his company placed great emphasis on safety, choosing to buy a fleet of 12 pounds 186,000 Kassbohrer Setra coaches because of their reputation for strength and passenger security.

He said he had been made aware of ABS problems on the fleet and of a letter written by Alan Fishenden, the company's service manager, to Kassbohrer (UK) nine months before the crash, complaining of faults in 'most' of the fleet. But he added: 'I am not aware of any vehicles ever leaving the premises without their ABS systems working.'

The inquest was told last week that the crashed coach had also had its speed limiter removed. This device, compulsory under the law, was supposed to have cut fuel to the engine once the coach reached 70mph; but its top speed before the crash was 78mph.

Mr Pegg, operations manager at the company's depot in Hounslow, west London, was asked why engineers had failed to spot the limiter was missing. He said the mechanism was buried in the bowels of the vehicle but that a check could easily be made at a junction box. This, however, failed to record its absence. He, too, said he had not been told of the defects and that he had never knowingly sent out a coach with a faulty ABS system.

Mr Pegg and Mr Grayson paid tribute to the driver, Mr Golds, describing him as 'meticulous and fastidious'. They added that he stuck rigidly to legislation relating to maximum driving hours.

The inquest jury is expected to retire today.

(Photograph omitted)

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