College bosses have sought reassurances from a bus operator transporting its students after the firm was lambasted in a report for the state of its vehicles.

Kingston Maurward College said it learnt about a damning report into North Dorset Community Accessible Transport (Nordcat) through a Dorset Echo story rather than from the operator itself.

As reported, Nordcat has had most of its vehicle permits revoked by the Traffic Commissioner - who is stopping it providing home to school transport. An inquiry found it 'does not have the competence or capability' to maintain vehicles after an inspection found a 76% MOT failure rate on its fleet which includes minibuses and larger buses.

Read more: Bus firm blasted for poorly maintained vehicles and ordered to stop school transport

The firm holds a contract with Kingston Maurward College to provide home to school transport involving ten minibuses and one 33-seater.

Traffic Commissioner Kevin Rooney said he would revoke all of the large bus permits and 15 of the small bus permits. He is attaching a condition to the remaining permits (5) that they are not to be used for home to school transport.

The permits are revoked with effect from July 24 this year so Nordcat can transport students until the end of the summer term.

College Principal Luke Rake said: "We are deeply shocked by the recently published findings of the Traffic Commissioner inquiry, a process Nordcat had completely failed to inform us was happening and which we were made aware of only through the Dorset Echo.

"The relationship between Nordcat and the College has been a long one, largely through the College’s desire to help support the entirety of rural Dorset through community transport in rural areas. At every stage Nordcat has presented to the College their suitability for home to college transport. Indeed, we have recently gone through a rigorous independent procurement exercise for the next year and during this process Nordcat presented the College with sufficient information to be a strong contender and no notification of any issues.

"The safety of students is our prime motivation so we have already met with Nordcat representatives and asked for immediate and independent safety checks on all vehicles to ensure that for the remainder of the term we can be assured of their suitability for college transport."

Mr Rake added: "Regardless of the Commissioner’s report we had already decided some months ago to move to a different provider of college transport for the new academic year, which will provide newer vehicles, better technology and travel apps for parents and students to plan journeys, and a significant reduction in costs for all current and new students."

Responding to the inspector's report, Chairman of the Nordcat Board Pauline Batstone said: "Nordcat regards the safety of all its passengers as paramount.

"All Nordcat’s vehicles are judged safe when they go on the road and are covered by current MOTs as well as being subject to rigorous, frequent, safety inspections. We are cooperating fully with Kingston Maurward College to enable the independent assessment of all our vehicles which they have requested, as quickly as possible to reassure the college, students and parents that they are safe. So far five buses have been checked and approved and the independent assessor is coming again this week to check the remaining seven.

"We acknowledge the criticisms in the recent Traffic Commissioner’s report.

"Nordcat’s licence is being revoked when the current Kingston Maurward contract ends at the end of term, 24th July 2023, not immediately as it would have been had there been concerns about the immediate safety of the service."

Explaining the operator's legal position, which was questioned in the report, Ms Batstone said: "Nordcat is a charity and it is the charity which has the contract with Kingston Maurward.

"Many years ago when Nordcat was set up as a larger organisation its accountants advised that it should use a trading arm for any commercial contracts. That trading company has continued to exist on the accountants' advice but has not been actually needed for a long time, all work being undertaken by the charity.

"No “profits” are paid to any individuals, Trustees give their time for free. Employees are paid a wage. All money earned by Nordcat goes back into running the organisation, in particular its community transport work. Nordcat will be considering with Dorset Council how that community and medical transport can be undertaken in the future."