A West Midland bus company has been stripped of a third of its services and told it cannot operate any new routes for nine months in a damning judgment by the Traffic Commissioner.
People's Express, formerly known as Pete's Travel, withdrew a number of Black Country services last week, leaving the West Midlands public transport executive Centro to step in to organise replacement buses.
It has now emerged that the withdrawals followed a series of penalties imposed on the company.
Following public complaints to the West Midlands Traffic Commissioner David Dixon, inspectors found 37 of the 267 services they monitored arrived outside a sixminute "window of tolerance" - one minute before or five minutes after the schedule.
Also the company has had 33 maintenance notices issued against its vehicles in just two years.
Mr Dixon fined it £14,400, to be paid to the Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, and imposed a condition that no new local services may be registered by the company for nine months.
The maximum number of vehicles the company can operate at any one time has been reduced from 160 to 108 because of the maintenance notices.
People's Express has also been issued with a formal warning over breaches of driver hours regulations and failure to display destinations under the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981.
Centro had to step in at short notice after People's Express axed services on the 74a route between Dudley and Great Bridge and its daytime services between Stourbridge and Kingswinford (route 267).
The distinctive yellow buses have also stopped running on most daytime journeys on service 445 between Quinton and Smethwick from today.
A Centro spokesman said: "It is clear that passengers want clean, reliable and safe buses and we support the Traffic Commissioner's actions and welcome the enforcement of the rules that bus companies must comply with so that we can make public transport more attractive."
Prior to the judgment, People's Express ran about four per cent of bus services in the West Midlands conurbation.
Although that is dwarfed by the nearly 90 per cent of buses run by Travel West Midlands, the company is still the second largest operator in the region.
No one from the company could be contacted for comment.
People's Express has until Monday to lodge an appeal against the judgment.
There are seven Traffic Commissioners covering eight traffic areas throughout Great Britain.
The West Midlands Traffic Area covers the metropolitan boroughs within West Midlands and the counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.