Bosses at Greater Manchester's biggest bus firm have been fined £285,000 by a transport watchdog after officials found one in four services were failing to turn up on time.
Senior directors for bus firm First were told by traffic commissioner Beverley Bell they had been "complacent" about the lateness of services.
She has ordered at a public inquiry that they report back to her on any progress in three months' and six months' time.
The firm was hauled before Ms Bell after transport officers found that up to 26 per cent of buses were turning up late or early.
Bus companies must ensure that 95 per cent of their services are no more than one minute early or five minutes late - or they can face a huge fine.
The firm said they were operating in "difficult economic circumstances" and also blamed road works, including the work on the A6 in Salford that has caused chaos for motorists.
But Ms Bell said: "I want to send a message out that, without imposing a penalty, First Manchester would not have focused its mind enough to meet the legislation and I still feel it's being complacent."
She added: "In my view, it hasn't taken enough proactive action to improve the services to its passengers and that is what this is all about."
First carries about 100 million passengers a year on more than 300 bus routes in Greater Manchester.
Under transport laws, a transport commissioner can impose fines of up to £350 per vehicle on firms that fail to meet the 95 per cent punctuality target.
Four officers from the vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) monitored more than 860 bus journeys in Eccles, Swinton, Worsley, Royton, Trafford and Stalybridge in January and February last year.
One officer found 23 per cent of services failed to meet the punctuality target, another officer found 26 per cent failed to hit the target, a third officer found that 17 per cent missed the target and the fourth officer found 21 per cent missed the target.
Richard Soper, strategic development director north for First, had admitted at an earlier hearing that services that were consistently unreliable would not survive.
Ms Bell told him: "They damn well won't survive because I will take them off you."
Asked why one service had not improved, the firm's service delivery director, Kenneth Poole, said: "They hadn't got round to it."
Ms Bell said: "So, when I go out to get a bus in the freezing fog on my way to a doctor's appointment, it is in the knowledge that First Group, with £14 million profits, hasn't got round to it?"
She added: "It is failing badly and you have done nothing about it. If you haven't got round to it when you are facing the regulator, when are you going to get round to it?"
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