A LEADING Southampton coach company has been hit with a 10-year licence ban over a series of “dangerous” and “incurable” safety breaches.

Airlynx Express, which was used by the likes of Hampshire Cricket Club, will have its operator’s licence revoked next month.

It comes after a year-long investigation into “serious breaches” relating to the amount of time its drivers spend behind the wheel.

Today, traffic bosses will release a report in which they describe the company’s compliance as "rotten to the core".

Meanwhile, two of its former leading figures have also been given personal bans.

One of those is ex-Eastleigh borough councillor, Keith Trenchard, who was given an indefinite Europe-wide ban from holding the role of transport manager.

Daily Echo: Councillor Keith Trenchard - Liberal Democrat for Eastleigh Central..

(Keith Trenchard)

It comes after an investigation by the Drivers and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and a public inquiry by the UK Traffic Commissioner, the body responsible for the licensing and regulation of coaches.

In a report, UK commissioner to West of England Traffic Commission, Kevin Rooney, wrote that Airlynx Express bosses had instructed employees to break strict safety laws.

One incident involved former employee Leonard Richards who illegally used another driver’s tachograph card while on a day off while in Austria.

Mr Richards claimed he was told by the company to drive the coach despite him being on a rest day.

In the report, the commissioner said: “I’ve heard no dissent to the allegation that Mr Richards was told by either Mr Trenchard or Ms Ralph to drive the vehicle on his rest day.

“This is one clear occasion where the company instructed its driver to break the law.”

The commissioner said: “In terms of driver’s hours compliance, the company is rotten to the core. It is incurable.

“This is not a business that can be allowed to operate public service vehicles again.”

As well as revoking the licence of Airlynx Express, based near St Mary’s Stadium, the Commissioner also disqualified the company from holding a licence for 10 years.

The company’s ex-transport manager Keith Trenchard was also given an indefinite disqualification, while fellow transport manager Tracey Ralph was disqualified for a year.

Company owner, Stephen Brookwell, was deemed to have acted 'recklessly' and commissioner Mr Rooney said 'dangerous practices' developed as a result.

However he stopped short of disqualifying Mr Brookwell, who he said had been at 'arms-length' to the business and had 'learned much' from the public inquiry. 

Neither Mr Trenchard or Ms Ralph were available for comment last night.

The Echo contacted Airlynx Express for a comment, but did not receive a response.

The ruling comes after eleven of the company’s former drivers were brought before Southampton Magistrates’ Court.

They were fined a total of £13,000. and ordered to pay a further £7,500 in costs after admitting breaking laws.

Airlynx Express were also fined £10,000 in total and told to pay court costs of more than £2,000.

Daily Echo: Southampton Magistrates Court

In a written sentencing, Judge District Anthony Galloway said the company had a “casual attitude” to its legal obligations and its drivers.

Speaking after that hearing, Gareth Llewellyn the chief executive of the DVSA, who led the prosecution against Airlynx Express and its drivers, said: “DVSA’s priority is to protect you from unsafe drivers and vehicles.

“There’s no excuse for driving while tired.

“The results of falling asleep at the wheel can be devastating.

“Any driver or operator breaking these rules is putting other road users at risk.

“As this case shows, we will not hesitate in taking action against drivers and operators who flout the law.”