The North Estonia Public Transport Center on Thursday decided that bus route servicing agreements entered into with bus operator Atko will be terminated.
First, the plan is to replace Atko Liinid OÜ with another carrier on the student lines of the rural municipality of Harku, but the public transport center will also start preparing for the termination of contracts concerning west and eastbound lines in Harju County.
Vello Jõgisoo, head of the North Estonia Public Transport Center, said that certain conditions have to be met for the early termination of contracts and the bus company must have carried out two major violations. However, a major violation does not have to be a single case but can be gathered from individual smaller episodes. Until now, one major violation by Atko had been registered over the years. Now, however, smaller violations amounting to a bigger breach have been gathered together.
According to Jõgisoo, one of the most extreme cases occurred this week as a bus driver who had been working for 16 hours was found behind the wheel of an Atko bus.
Harku rural municipality mayor Erik Sandla said that the rural municipality’s clear interest is that the public transport center terminate contracts with Atko as quickly as possible. “We want children to be able to go to school with a new carrier in September, from the middle of September at the latest,” Sandla said.
Jõgisoo said, however, that changes cannot be made that quickly. “Today, we have not yet issued the contract cancellation documents to Atko, meaning that nothing will happen in a month’s time,” he said.
The process may end up dragging along should Atko contest the contract cancellation. “Of course, we have to ensure safe travel for the passengers, but we cannot overlook the fact that Atko services more than half of the public transport in Harju County,” Jõgisoo said.
He added that before the cancellation of contracts, all nuances of the violations must be very clearly justified and registered. “All arguments must be watertight in court. We cannot make a mistake even with a single decimal point,” he said.
Toomas Korenev, field manager of the traffic group of the traffic supervision center of the North Prefecture of the Police and Border Guard Board, said that most of the problems that Atko bus drivers have had have to do with disregarding driving and rest time requirements. Buses are also often in poor technical condition, with engine oil and fuel leaks, problems with the braking system, lights and tires in poor condition and seat belts broken or missing altogether, Korenev added.
The week before last, a traffic accident took place on the Tallinn-Kloogaranna line where an Atko bus drove into a van parked on the side of the road.
Atko Liinid OÜ is servicing western and eastern direction public lines across rural municipality borders in Harju County as well as student routes within the rural municipality of Harku. The bus company has 24 departures in the western direction and 17 in the eastern direction. Atko is the carrier on 11 student routes in the rural municipality of Harku and also operates the routes of several other rural municipalities.