`Unsafe' buses ordered off road

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The Independent Online
ONE IN 20 holiday coaches stopped in a massive national safety blitz were so dangerous they were immediately ordered off the road, police said yesterday.

Police and Department of Transport inspectors checked1,607 coaches and buses in the operation on Saturday. Serious defects to steering, tyres and brakes, or fuel and oil leaks, were found in 77 of the vehicles, while 155 vehicles had less severe problems.

A total of 379 other offences, including drivers working excessive hours and not having correct documents, were also reported. One driver taking a party of youngsters on a trip was arrested for driving while disqualified.

The crackdown was coordinated by Avon and Somerset police, where Chief Inspector Mark Thompson said: "Almost 4,000 people were travelling in coaches which were not fit to be on the road on Saturday, one of the busiest days of the year."

Roads were also choked with traffic yesterday as motorists made for the beach on one of the hottest days of the year. "It's been a run to the sun," an RUC spokesman said.

Meanwhile, a protest by truck drivers threatens to create traffic chaos in London today, with a thousand lorries descending on the capital in the latest demonstration over rising fuel costs.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA), which will also be lobbying MPs, says its protest follows the failure of a meeting last week in a government- set-up forum to discuss the truckers' unhappiness with price rises announced in the Budget.

"We apologise to the public for the disruption that will be caused but the Government are doing nothing and we have to publicise our case," said the RHA's Steve Williams. "UK jobs are at risk and we feel we must make a stand."

The London Chamber of Commerce called the planned protest "regrettable".

"It is not necessary to drive 1,000 lorries into the centre of the capital in order to lobby MPs," it said.

Nationwide demonstrations were organised by the truckers' protest group Transaction yesterday, while the Tories renewed calls for an end to the automatic annual fuel duty increases. The Conservative spokesman on transport, Bernard Jenkin, said: "British truckers face the highest road tax and the highest diesel prices in Europe."